Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 574

For the love of real estate

Today I’ve been discussing with my American chums the difference between a UK sestate agent and a USA real estate agent.

It appears that the USA ‘realtor’ develops a relationship with the people who are buying a house; becomes their port of call for all things; has dinner with them, changes diapers for their baby; becomes their second child’s godparent; attends to the children’s homework; eats over on the holidays; and is forever known as one of the family after the deal is done.

In the UK, we just find some bloke or bird from an office on the high street to show us around a home, which we picked out of Thursday’s local paper, in awkward silence; they give us a few pieces of paper to look at and sign; and then off they pop back to their office and off we pop off to have a drink and never shall we meet again.

That’s the nutshell difference :)

A typical McMansion real estate property here

A typical McMansion real estate property here

Don’t mention the war!

I love having conversations with Americans about all sorts round this neck of the woods, and invariably the conflict between us Brits and our American cousins is brought in to play for amusing effect.

This conversation ran thus:

Me: I find DC really hard to navigate round; I always get so disorientated (not disoriented, as is the American way of saying it! ;) )

American chum: Yeah, they made it that way on purpose cos of your people….

Whether this is true or not, I applaud that quick retort!

That old war thing....

That old war thing….

(Note: Washington, D.C., is a planned city and in 1791, President Washington commissioned Pierre Charles L’Enfant, a French-born architect and city planner, to design the new capital, so, naturally, this encouraged the French to make it impossible for us Brits to navigate!)

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 573

Six degrees of separation to Harry Connick Jr

My life in the USA is kind of bizarre and that’s probably why I love it!

Last year I filmed a TV show for the Investigation Discovery Channel called Deadly Affairs: To Catch a Cheat. When you’re on set you chat, hang out and make friends with the other extras.

On set that day was Shaina from Baltimore and we did a couple of scenes together – and she was very cool. And then yesterday I see a commercial for the talent show American Idol and, blow me down, if she isn’t one of the top 24 contestants on the show!

This is ‘Shi’ (that’s her stage name), bottom left of this pic.

Shi, bottom left corner

Shi, bottom left corner

That is very, very cool. I hope she wins!

This is our scene together in the show (it’s bad quality, but hey, you can make us both out!)

And the reason I say I now have six degrees of separation to the insanely talented Harry Connick Jr is that he was on the panel for the American Idol audition Shi attended and is one of the judges for the whole show. But what do I know about it all, I don’t watch it! But I might now that both Harry and Shi are on it!

Electric Shocks

Question: how come I keep getting electric shocks here in Columbia, MD? Like effing loads! Like on the nose of my poor cat! Like 10-15 a day. Weird.

Keep getting zapped!

Keep getting zapped!

Brits in the USA

It has come to my attention that are loads of us Brits here in the USA, especially in this area on the East Coast. I find more and more of them everyday! And they all love it here! And I love them – they’re so positive!

I’m not sure if there is a plan to take over America, or whatever, but if there is, I missed that memo. ;)

Taking my plate

Argh, it’s been nearly three years and this still bothers me in restaurants: taking my plate before the other person or people I am eating with have finished.

It’s just not deemed to be a British table etiquette thing and I can’t help but balk at it when it happens. But, when it happens, I just smile and say sorry and thanks, though, because that it is my British way ;)

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 572

School uniforms in the USA?

Nah, this isn’t going to happen in public schools (that’s regular state schools to us Brits, not posh wotnot schools) in the USA.

But…maybe it should. My American friend’s teenage daughter has been through an ordeal in her American middle school because of what she was wearing. And it wasn’t tarty, saucy or provocative in any way shape or form. And yet she’s been pulled aside by the school admin who think what she wore – or rather ‘how’ she wore it – was inappropriate.

This is my friend’s blog post about the incident. It’s an interesting read, and very frustrating too. I’d definitely welcome Brit and American thoughts on the benefits of wearing school uniform – I understand that this could happen with a uniform shirt too, of course. I’m not one for uniforms per se, because I like to express my personality with my clothes, and even when I did have a school uniform I managed to hitch up my skirt an inch and sometimes rolled my socks down, which was expressly forbidden at my school.

But that teenage rebellion aside, this is a story about what a particular American teenage girl has been through, and it’s more a story focusing on women who do this kind of body shaming to young women/girls. Why I find it interesting is that this discussion has happened in the UK to some extent when kids have disobeyed school uniform rules, but perhaps not to this degree within this very American remit of non-uniformed attire and the impact this can have in many ways on the kids. I welcome your thoughts!

School uniforms UK style

School uniforms UK style

These are some of the messages of support to my friend and her daughter:

  • At school there are so many other issues to get concerned about for the kids and for the kids to be worried about. I had my arms covered on national TV here in the USA because they were worried they would offend middle America during the daytime. They are arms ffs. I would suggest that the woman (?) who is harassing her actually has body issues herself (we all do but some are more extreme) and that she has issues with teenage girls and their bodies because of it. Ergo, the problem is not with your daughter. #womenbefree
  •  Your anger and outrage are completely justifiable. I hope that it can somehow launch a real, open discussion with the young women and men in the room who are bombarded with mixed, damaging messages. Judgment and shaming have to be taken out of the enforcement measures.
  • I’ll weigh in again and echo what I said yesterday and what some have said here: it seems highly subjective, which makes it a detriment and not enforceable or useful in any meaningful way.

    Didn’t you say she’s worn the top previously and not been rep
    rimanded? Why is this a focus when clearly the top was not worn with an intent to flaunt the rules? That subjectivity along with the way it was handled (in front of peers, pulling in another administrator for “back-up”) worries me on several levels. Self esteem is a big deal for middle school students (okay, it’s a big deal for many people regardless of age), and how this was handled does everything about making her question her clothes and body and little about objectivity, learning, education and being role models for youth.

    When did our youth become so unable to exercise self-control that having one’s shirt ride up becomes cause for such a response? THAT troubles me, too. Perhaps they should focus on teaching those distracted to focus on schoolwork and that it’s no business of theirs what others wear.

    Not everyone dresses like the Mean Girls

    Not everyone dresses like the Mean Girls

    Harry will be wearing school uniform next year back in the UK, and to be honest I can’t wait – sooooo much easier!

British at the Oscars!

What a great night for the Brits at the Oscars! From Benedict Cumberbatch sneaking in his hip flask (whisky I’m guessing) and mouthing ‘go away’ at the cameras; to the chaps who referred to the Oscars as ‘big buggers’ (we Brits swear so eloquently!); to Eddie Redmayne looking all suave and sophisticated, plus many others, it was a great night for the Brits!

What a cheeky chap!

What a cheeky chap!

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 571

Really bloody cold

There’s not much going in UK Desperate Housewife land at the moment because it’s just really cold and that’s about it. Snow days, blah, school delayed, blah, really cold, blah, freezing temperatures, blah.

Snow days blah

Snow days blah

The Number One thing I won’t miss when I return to the UK is the freezing cold and the endless school closings. How many days of school missed already here in Maryland? I ask how many days have been missed in the UK cos of the rain? ;)

If I were President…

Harry’s delightful answer to this question posed to him and his class mates in light of it being Presidents’ Day this week: ‘Imposible (sic). I am English.’

This.

This.

Hersheys vs Cadbury

An American friend recently asked how many Hershey kisses you could eat in one sitting. None, I replied, cos I’m boycotting Hersheys. Fact.

Hands off!

Hands off!

#boycotthersheys #eatrealcadburychocolateonly

Oooh, the controversy that ensued! Best keep my British sarcasm out of it! ;)

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 570

Basketball courts

It has been pointed out to me that American basketball courts are, if looked upon at the correct angle, mildly amusing.

Snigger like school children if you will. :)

Tee hee

Tee hee

The Real Desperate Housewives of Howard County

It’s been two years since I last played the Desperate Housewife parlor game Bunco in the USA (read about that fun experience here :) )and such an evening as this is a fabulous insight into a decadent world of marvellously gregarious and humorous women, wine consumption, padded toilet seats and flamingo-in-the-yard happy hours.

I think that possibly the two that need explaining are padded toilet seats and  flamingo-in-the-yard happy hours….

1. Padded toilet seats. I’ve never had such a comfy wee break as I had on this squishy toilet seat in this plush palatial McMansion bathroom. I kind of wished I’d needed to stay there longer. There were extravagant light fittings that flashed and music to keep me entertained. That was a special loo pitstop, I can tell you.

Kind of like this!

Kind of like this!

2.  Flamingo-in-the-yard happy hours. Apparently this is something that happens in the Desperate Housewife neighbourhood on a Friday lunchtime. Whoever places this plastic flamingo in their front yard is the one having the happy hour at their house that week and all the Desperate Housewives keep an eye out for it and when they spot it they pile on over for drinkies until the school buses drop off their kids and then they return sozzled to their McMansions, or those who are empty-nesters or just don’t have kids carry on drinking until the small hours, smug in the knowledge they don’t have to get up for swim team practice or whatever other activities are on the never-ending schedule of organised fun.

Flamingo double shot happy hour!

Flamingo double shot happy hour!

What fun!

Medical bills so far in the USA

$15,674 smackeroonies.

That’s how much we’ve ‘spent’ via our insurance for doctors’ and dentists’ bills in 2 1/2 years. Interestingly, it’s pretty much equivalent to the same amount we’d pay over the same length of time for UK National Insurance contributions.

None of that is due to the three of us being overly sick or indulging in decadent with dentistry, so I can’t imagine how many people manage to maintain any form of private health insurance in the USA when in order to get access medical assistance and health you need money. But that’s going down a political route, and I know you folks don’t want that in this blog!

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 569

Fat Tuesday, USA

I wish I was in New Orleans for Fat Tuesday this coming week. Oh, what fun! I love me a bit of Bourbon Street! The beads! The booze! The bands!

This is the place to be.

This is the place to be.

I’ll be finding something to do though for it. Ooh, I love a bit of Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day, or whatever folks choose to call it. I get very confused….

Valentine’s Day, USA

It’s that time of year again when EVERYONE at school gets a Valentine’s Card and NO-ONE is made to feel left out, and thus the children are not prepared for real life when sometimes no one gives a toss about you and there’s no one special in your life to give you a card, or a bottle of plonk and take you out for an over-priced meal on Valentine’s Day, blah blah blah.

Love hurts, kids. See, I haven’t been totally Americanised! I can still be a cynical, grumpy Brit ;) .

(Btw, do they do this Valentine card giving to everyone in UK schools? I need to know to prepare myself. If not, hoorah! If so, boo.)

17 children, 17 cards

17 children, 17 cards

As is the way in American schools, everyone’s a winner!

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 568

Accents in The Wire

As a Brit in the USA, I am fascinated by how fascinating my accent is to Americans. ‘Say this word and this one and this one!’ they cry (often British swear words appeal to a certain crowd!). I am also intrigued by how some people find it easy to pick up different accents. My son can alternate between British (at home) and American (at school) with ease. On the other hand, my husband’s Cockney accent often warrants interpretation by me for our American cousins (it’s the fast way he speaks, plus the use of colloquialisms that confuse).

I also love the varying American accents across the States. How I love to travel to South Carolina to hear the Southern twang reminiscent of Scarlett O’Hara herself, or to hear the Texas cowboy drawl whilst hanging in a bar listening to country music. Ah, bliss! I attempted a New Jersey accent in front of American friends recently as my new dinner party party-piece. I need to have a word repeating in my head in order to recreate this North Eastern accent and so I keep pronouncing the word ‘dawg’ (dog) over and over, just like my New Jersey friend’s mother does (and slightly based on the Desperate Housewives of New Jersey, sadly), and then I gush out a sentence, generally with the word ‘dawg’ in it. It seems to work and the guests all seemed fairly impressed by this girl from Bath, England (that’s pronounced ‘Barth’ btw) ;)

The Wire, set in Baltimore

The Wire, set in Baltimore

Accents are an amazing thing. They can set us apart or make us feel part of a group. They are the key to our identity, our community and our culture.

With all this preoccupation about accents in mind, I spoke to BettyAnn Leeseberg-Lange, a professional ‘accents expert’ about her work with Talking Well Consulting. She’s worked on TV shows such as The Wire, with ace Brit actors Dominic West and Idris Elba no less, and with The Shakespeare Theatre, focusing on dialects and accents and her interview is truly fascinating stuff.

Drive-thru banking, how I will miss thee

I’ll miss it. Until I experienced it, I never even thought about it using it. But, I love it here in the USA. It’s a lazy-ass thing, but on a cold day it beats finding somewhere to park (like in the UK) and getting out the damn car!

I’m talking about drive-thru banking, folks. It’s not a thing in the UK.

Why do you need it so? asked a British chum. Cos, I replied I get paid by ‘check’ and they have to be deposited.

Yep, America-land still loves them checks!

A drive up bank thingymajig

A drive up bank thingymajig

Those video banking hole-in-the-walls

Question: inside American banks, when you speak to the person via video and then send your money up the ‘Gringotts shoot’ as I call it (Harry Potter reference), where is that person actually located? I think they’re upstairs somewhere cos that’s the way the shoot goes, but maybe they’re located in the basement next to the bank vault. Or, perhaps, more boringly, they’re just in the office along the corridor. And if that is the case, why can’t they just be behind a counter?! So many questions!

I need to know the answers!

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