Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 301

School buzzers / PTA

Okay, so in the UK schools you have to press a buzzer to get in to the school and there are cameras and wot not and you have to sign in and it’s all very security conscious and, whilst it’s a little bit of a pain, and a shame that it has to be that way, ultimately it’s a good thing.

Well, this week apparently there were some PTA shenanigans going on at one school because some school folks want to put in a security system and some of the ‘moms’ are against it, and some are up for it, and oh my, it’s all Vera Bradley handbags at dawn in the playground.

A blunt picture from the USA media

A blunt picture from the USA media

So, I’ll be honest…I’m a bit shocked that there isn’t more intensive security in the schools. In some of them, you can just wander on in, maybe take a visitor sticker if you fancy it, mooch about, have a nosey in the classrooms, watch the PE sessions, have a sit down in the cafeteria, pull out a gun….

Look, I’m just saying….. And after Sandy Hook, well, isn’t it just right to be a tad more vigilant. So what if it’s a bit of a pain in the arse to press a buzzer and have a security camera. Really. So what if it feels a little inconvenient when you’re dropping your kid off/coming in to help at the school.

There are some things which are far more inconvenient, and which can have much longer lasting effects….

Beer pong and flip cup‏

I learn a lot of new, very useful and very important things when I hang out with my American mates.

Like ‘beer pong’ and ‘flip cup’.

‘What are these games?’ I enquire.
“Have you never heard of them or played them?’ they reply, aghast.
‘No…’ I reply, trying to recall drinking games we might have played in the UK. I can’t recall many. I think we just drank, because the important thing was to just get drunk.
‘What did you do for fun….?!’ my American chums chortled at me.
I couldn’t really remember….

Anyway, beer pong….

I have been promised that I will be playing this soon 🙂

And flip cup…..

I will, of course, be avoiding the alcohol poisoning 😉


The other day I told an American friend that I ‘blagged a ticket’. I felt I owed him an explanation of what that meant: I got a free ticket to an event in a cheeky, harmless way.

Do you use this word, I asked of him. No, we do not, he said.

But…it can also mean:
a) Trickery to obtain something vital or dear to someone, especially information.
(Urban Dictionary explanation: ‘The scumbags blagged themselves everything from televisions to trainers during the riots. One guy even looted some Immodium, after an earlier break-in at Nandos.’ (This last bit is funny 😉 )

b) Thieving, stealing.
(Urban Dictionary explanation: Stephanie blagged herself a free drink by flashing some healthy cleavage to the barman, shaking her arse as she walked away.)

Someone blagged themselves a free pass to something!

Someone blagged themselves a free pass to something!

Ah, to blag! 😉

Welcome to Clarksville

Two contrasting tales – part 1

Clarksville, MD. Aka, The Bubble.

The area in which I live topped the zipcodes of the USA the other day and one resident spoke about living here in the Washington Post.

The thing that amused me about the article was this very true overview of the area:

‘….Clarksville, Md., [is] a bedroom community midway between Washington and Baltimore where the median household income tops $181,000, more than triple the national average.

‘An astonishing 98 percent of River Hill High School’s graduates head to college. Volvos, Mercedes-Benzes and BMWs are scattered throughout the student parking lot. Even pets get in on the refined tastes of their owners; in a small shopping center near the school, a shop specializing in organic dog food is next door to the organic grocery store.

‘Clarksville sits in one of the nation’s “Super Zips” — a term coined by American Enterprise Institute scholar and author Charles Murray to describe the country’s most prosperous, highly educated demographic clusters. On average, they have a median household income of $120,000, and 7 in 10 adults have college degrees.

‘Although these areas would be considered rare in much of the country, they’re fairly ordinary by Washington standards.’

Ordinary and very, very rich. Not everyone lives like this, obviously.

The land of large houses and more large houses and even larger houses

The land of large houses and more large houses and even larger houses

Welcome to Howard County

Two contrasting tales – part 2

Howard County Homelessness

Now, Clarksville sits in Howard County, and a great county it is too, but a report in the Baltimore Sun read thus (and the numbers shocked me):

In Howard County, 4.6 percent of the population — or 30,800 people — live at or below federal poverty guidelines.

For a family of four, the federal government says their income must be $23,550 or less.

But $50,000 is required for a family for self-sufficiency [in Howard County]. That means an additional 43,000 people in the county need support.

“With the average county home costing $447,000 and a two-bedroom apartment renting for $19,500 a year, “it’s clearly not possible for these families to find affordable housing,” says Deepak Chadha, a volunteer with the Community Action Council of Howard County. “We have distributed 1,140 housing vouchers, but we have 5,200 families on a waiting list.”

Chadha said there are four “big pockets” of need in the eastern part of the county, in Columbia, Savage, Elkridge and Laurel, while the average annual income in western Howard is $181,000.

Homelessness in Howard County

Homelessness in Howard County

So, there you have it. Wealth and poverty, living side by side in America. A stark contrast that really makes you think.

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5 Responses to Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 301

  1. Where doesn’t wealth and poverty co-exist? Paris? London? In all the great (and no so great) cities of the world – wealth and poverty live side by side. What exactly is the thought provoking component of what you have written? (other than Europeans always seem surprised by American poverty? As though their view of the US is created solely from the TV – how trite!). I live in Europe. Poverty, especially today, is rampant. That fact, in and of itself, is certainly not thought provoking. I think you need to add something to the discussion beyond regurgitated rhetoric. Claire, your blogs are dying. Step it up a notch!

    • Ah, I’ll be totally clear about it, and it’s a comment on The Bubble of Clarksville. This is a bubble of wealth (hence the zip code reference). It is a bubble of high incomes and big, flash cars and loads of food and shops and personal trainers and Gucci handbags and massive houses with basements the size of the downstairs of my house in the UK.

      My comment is that in this bubble I think people are not aware of the homelessness and poverty that DOES exist, because if you drive around it is not at all obvious.

      And all I was saying that the poverty is here, and I think people who live here are sometimes unaware, and I was simply alluding to the fact that it is there, and the numbers shocked me.

      That’s all. Of course it co-exists everywhere, but here, in this bubble, it might not be so apparent to those who reside in the Super Zip Code.

      I read the two articles on the same day, and they were so contrasting in their commentary, it made me realise that the Bubble doesn’t exist for everyone, and for some it didn’t even form.

      Cheers 😉

  2. Oh, and sorry to be blunt – but I used to adore your blog… couldn’t wait to read it!

  3. As a resident of one of the non Super Zips next to a Super Zip, I think worldinbetween is missing the point. People here in Howard County believe there’s some poverty but it’s not a big deal and they stay away from those “sketchy” spots. Many middle class people in this county see poverty as an inner city phenomenon. I believe that was the point of the WashPost article…And the level of wealth in our county is exponentially separated.

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