Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 355

Letter boxes

I miss my letter box being in my front door. Why? Well, the other day my friend wanted to drop something round for me in an envelope, but because I wasn’t in, so she couldn’t just push it though the door like back in the UK cos we don’t have one and it wasn’t safe just to leave it on the doorstep, and that got me thinking…..I really do I miss my letterbox!

I guess I miss the sound of letters being pushed through the door and landing on the doorstep. I find that exciting! Yes, I really do (something to do with being at boarding school and the excitement of receiving communication from the outside world…). I think I’ve also missed it in the recent big freeze, when I’ve had to traipse outside (what a hard life, hey?!) and collect my mail, or post, of whatever we call it.

Such traditions!

Such traditions!

The idea here in Columbia is that our community letterboxes are supposed to enable and encourage conversation between neighbours who go to collect their post at the same time. I like that idea, I really do. Alas, it’s only happened to me twice in 18 months – and I collect my mail every day!


OMFG. What the hell? I don’t get USA taxes, but then math/s was never my strong point, except when I won a Maths prize for having a nice smile 😉

Anyway, I’ve wasted a lot of time trying to explain to the tax folk that I don’t fit in the usual box scenario and they can’t even see my winning smile when I’m on the phone. Actually, after 15 minutes I’m not frigging smiling anymore, to be honest. Suffice to say, I am one confused little Brit.

Door code

‘What’s the door code?’ I asked at the gym.
‘Valentine’s Day,’ they replied.

Bugger, it’s not working.

Then it hit me. They mean the American date stylie as in ‘214’ and I’m tapping in British date stylie ‘142’. Doh!

Droopy trees

Another ice storm today hits us in Maryland. Enough already! Even the bloody trees are looking all droopy and fed up under the weight of the ice, and owing to the fact that they’ve had enough of the freezing cold, crappy weather too.

Kind of pretty :)

Kind of pretty 🙂

A boy’s treehouse is his castle

My post about Harry’s treehouse has got people thinking.

Before I start, I must reiterate that I like living in Columbia – I’m a big advocate of it and support it and promote it and all that jazz. Not all Brits who come to live here do that, let me tell you. I proudly take visitors around Columbia, but it has its flaws too, of course.

The ‘villages’ created here in the 1970s are singularly unattractive, and to my view they lack charm and personality and character. They are functional, but not full of life and certainly not ‘villages’ as I know them back in the UK, but then why should they be? This is modern America.

If you look back all the things that I chose as my favourite things about living here from my post back in December, I chose all the quirky, off beat, unconventional bits of the area that generally have more soul and character and were that bit older. Interesting.

This is certainly not a criticism of Columbia or the Columbia Association (I work for them, for Gawd’s sake!), it’s just a view from a British bird’s perspective. I am told that, in respect to them having a pop at Harry’s tree house that, technically, it’s the village in which you live that sets and enforces the covenants, not Columbia Association, per se. I guess I’m just not used to someone owing the land, or even my front garden…..

So what do my British friends back home make of this very specific yellow card request? It’s not something we are used to in our world, back home – that is, being told what to conform to and such like with our homes. If Harry had built a treehouse in our front garden in the UK, then most folks would think it was sweet and creative and cute – and they would stop to chat to him and walk away just being grateful he’s not some little shit throwing eggs at them or their cars.


This is David’s view….

‘I was really shocked to read Claire’s post about someone from the Residents’ Association sending her a yellow card telling her to clear ways Harry’s treehouse in the front garden. My immediate reaction was what a bloody cheek, and for me, even though I have been thinking about it, my reaction is pretty much the same now.

‘But I did say I had been thinking about it. I guess part of the issue is the differences between the US and the UK but it is more than just the system. I am guessing that the Residents’ Associations in the states have some legal standing, where as is the UK they are just a social group and at best a neighbourhood watch group, twitching the curtains on the lookout for villains. We do have some private estates where the residents own a management company to run the common parts but that has nothing to do with the management of the individual houses.

Twitching curtains or helpful?

Twitching curtains or helpful?

‘It is the second difference that really got me thinking though; it is the difference in mind-set between our friendly cousins in the US and the English on this issue. There is a very old saying “An English man’s home is his castle” and this is taken very close to heart. It really comes down to no King or State shall tell me what to do with or within my own home. This is partly due the heart of the English nation is about individualism.

An English man's home is his castle :)

An English man’s home is his castle 🙂

‘The French are a collective nation that believes in large government and the individual being subservient to the system of government. For the American, loyalty to the President and the flag is very important and this is still a belief the state, at very least manages (if not rules), the people (just get an American talking about the IRS).
Compare the ease with which the draft was introduced for the Vietnam war, a war the other side of the world from the us and the introduction of conscription in the first world war in Britain. The nation was on its knees under threat of invasion and still the government was reluctant to do it as the right of the individual was seen as foremost. It was the first time in the history of a nation that had ruled many parts of the globe that men had been forced to war.

‘For the English, although we like a bit of pageantry and are quite fond of Liz in her palace, it is the individual before the state. We don’t call the people who work in our government Civil Servants for nothing. They are there to serve the citizens. It is the rights and freedoms of the individual that is in the heart and mind of the Englishman.

‘Now, I worked for a very senior American boss, in an American company, in the UK. This guy had the habit of calling and referring to people by their surnames. Eventually I had enough and had to take him to one side and say to him: “I have not been called by my surname since I was at school, so will you please stop doing it; everybody just thinks you are being bloody rude.” He did not think he was doing anything wrong but it was disrespectful to the individuality of the person.

‘One of our political broadcasters (Jeremy Paxman) in the UK has a book called The English: A Portrait of a People. I would urge anyone that wishes to understand the psyche of the English to read it. Especially if you intend to work in the UK.’

Us funny old English folk

Us funny old English folk

Thanks David, for those thoughts (and your treehouse support!). 🙂

Comments welcome!

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4 Responses to Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 355

  1. Read Paxman’s book a couple years ago but enjoyed Kate Fox’s Watching the English better.

  2. Andy says:

    I think the “community” mailboxes have less to do with meeting your neighbors for a little chinwag when you’re picking up the mail, and more to do with the fact the mailman/lady only has to make one stop to distribute all the mail rather than stop-start-stop-start in their little trucks dropping them off in individual mailboxes. This only applies to rural/suburban areas as they still deliver the mail by foot in larger cities. (At least that was how it was explained to me!).

    One story about mail delivery. Where we used to live in Virginia was considered a rural mail delivery area and all the delivery people were part-timers who used their own cars to deliver the mail. Our mail lady sat on the right side and steered the car from the passenger seat, with her feet stretched over working the pedals on the left hand side. These contortions enabled her to drop the mail in everyone’s mail box as she went down the street (the mail boxes are of course on what would be the passenger side as you drive down the road). I always thought it was incredibly unsafe but she had it down to a fine art (and never got a ticket from the cops)

  3. Seems Columbia mailboxes are a topic this week. Check out this post by local gal Heather Kirk-Davidoff in which Columbia’s mailboxes and their creation get a shout-out – And, I’d like to remind you again that there are additional tags you can add to posts, e.g. #HoCoBlogs, when you write about HoCo – Using them will increase your reach and range for local/hoco readers.

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