Joy, the Munchkin and I have been in London for a week. This makes us experts entitled to generate a list. Originated by Joy and compiled by all three of us, here it is:
Things at which the British excel:
Smoked salmon. Specifically, the smoked salmon at the Mall Tavern, conveniently located across the street from the Kensington Unitarians–eating that salmon was a religious experience of its own–but elsewhere too.
Playgrounds, and we’re not just talking about the astoundingly fantastic Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens, though it is astoundingly fantastic. There are four or five playgrounds within an easy walk of our flat. It’s not just outdoor space where they grok kids, either. It seems like every museum has highly developed children’s activities (watch and learn, San Francisco).
Coming up with creative pronunciations of non-English words. Yesterday we encountered a name that is pronounced Joe-a-kim, probably spelled Joachim.
Parks and gardens. Joy theorizes that while the men were off expanding and shoring up the Empire, the women had time to garden like mad.
Writing plays. Acting in them too, especially character roles.
Self-deprecation and understatement. I love the ad I’ve been seeing on the buses for a moisturizer. After the tagline comes the hard-selling line, “This moisturizer isn’t the whole answer, but at least it’s a start.” Where I come from, the right moisturizer makes you beautiful, wins you the love of a sexy partner, gets you that dream job, and brings about world peace, so this is refreshing.
Takeaway food. In fact, food in general. We haven’t had a bad meal yet. (Though even one of the best places, where Joy got a delicious roast dinner, boiled the carrots into flavorlessness. Roasted carrots are so yummy that it seemed like a particularly sadly wasted opportunity.)
Ethnic diversity. Of course, most big cities have people from all over, but it’s really striking here. It doesn’t hurt the food situation, either.
Funding museums. Admissions are mostly free.
Sweets. Fortnum and Mason’s toffees are just one shining example (I hope our dentist isn’t reading this).
Tea, the beverage and the meal. Again, why don’t all other countries have a meal that consists of tiny sandwiches, rolls, cakes, and tea? Such a brilliant idea.
Not so much:
Quitting smoking. Man, do Londoners smoke. I thought San Francisco was bad (people smoke there so much more than twenty miles south on the Peninsula, you would think the surgeon general’s warnings didn’t apply to city folk), but London leaves it standing. I am starting to suspect that every twenty-something who comes to London is issued an Oyster card and a pack of cigarettes. And while the restaurants seem to have a smoking ban, people can and do smoke at the tables just outside the doors, which are open for the summer so that the indoor diners can breathe the fumes. England, your food is unfairly maligned, but to have great food you have to remove the tobacco smell.
Not acquiring head injuries while biking. To be fair, maybe they don’t fall off their bikes often. I hope not, because almost none of them wear helmets.
Still and all, well done, Brits. You’re showing us a lovely time.