George Bernard Shaw is often credited with saying that “England and America are two countries divided by a common language,” although some sources claim it was Oscar Wilde who coined the phrase and others Winston Churchill.
In any case, I’ve never felt the phrase to be more accurate than now, having recently returned from the US after a two-week visit with family and friends for Thanksgiving.
From the glitz and glamour of New York City to the warmth and hospitality of the Atlanta, rather Albany, Ga., I lived it up and managed to spend a few days in the nation’s capital somewhere in between.
However, with my experiences but a distance memory, I’ve come in for a hazy landing. No wonder I’m being teased about using such words as Jell-O for jelly, and cookie for biscuit. Honestly. And shop assistants are repeatedly asking where I’m from and struggling to understand me.
Let’s just say I’m feeling a tad bit alien. Nonetheless, I’ll stay put and reorient, since I’ve made London my home for nearly sixteen years.
Bridging the language gap, however, is only one aspect of re-entering the capital. There’s switching back to the English coins from the chunk of American change I managed to collect, and the mobile phone, the credit cards and the chequebook, etc. Who still uses cheques? Never mind, you never know.
And then there is adjusting to the major drop in temperature. Dressed for late spring rather than early winter upon arrival at Heathrow Friday, I felt the chill coming on, not only in the air but also in the state of the airport, even it if is one of the busiest in the world. Having been described as a zoo, certainly by me, Heathrow and those running it manage to maintain a quintessentially British equanimity, at the worst of times, making the rest of us bonkers.
Lucky for me this time, I arrived at the best of times and breezed right through. But the same time the next day, others weren’t so lucky, as Heathrow practically shut down because of a computer glitch.
Outside of the airport, the atmosphere felt bleak by comparison to the warmth of Atlanta, though the weather has turned frigid in many parts of the US, including NYC and Washington, DC. Anyhow, I soon accepted the bleakness as part of what makes London, London—formal and steely at times yet familiar and enchanting.
Speaking of formality, sometimes it comes with excessive complication. Never mind that the parking app on my phone assured me that I was paid to park today for a few hours, yet my credit card had apparently expired. Furthermore, the customer service people had no sympathy for me and robotically referred me to the automated machine repeatedly.
I know, I know, it happens everywhere. Sure it does but you have to experience it in London to conclude that shouting and pleading are futile. Futile!
As for driving, it comes second nature to me here, even more so than it does in the US. Strangely, my brain thinks driving on the left side of the road makes more sense than driving on the right side, even if it is outdated.
Now for some sleep. Hang on, hang on, at writing of this, it was not even close of business yet, even if it was pitch black outside. Worse yet, it was only around lunchtime EST. Umm, another divider, wouldn’t you know it—time, a significant part of re-entry, absolutely nothing alien about it.
In that case, I’ll catch up on my Bo Peep (rhyming Cockney) later, I mean shut-eye, or shall I say sleep, a word we can all understand. Righty ho.