Friday, July 29, 2005

The Fabulous Yiddisher Britisher Tour Begins

Perhaps I've watched too many episodes of the BBC "What Not to Wear" (actually, I think I haven't seen nearly enough), but I saw plenty of fashion disasters while cooling my heels in Dulles airport waiting for my flight to London yesterday. First, there should be a total ban on baby-pink cowboy hats. They are an abomination, even (or especially) when perched on the head of perky blonde cheerleader types. Second, more women should wear a salwar kameez (long, slit tunic over loose trousers worn by Punjabis & Pakistanis), which can be tailored to enhance the figure or left loose to hide flaws. Third, fewer (i.e., none) should wear micro short-shorts (we used to call them hot pants) & tight tank tops, especially females with, in the words of Vladimir Nabokov, low-slung pelvises and heavy calves. Those females would look ever so much better in, oh, a salwar kameez. And don't get me started on all the flabby bellies I saw hanging out over low-slung jeans.

Handy tips:
1) To lessen jet lag, fly to Europe in the morning & arrive at night. Flight is less crowded too (or maybe that was just because fewer people want to go to London these days, for some reason).

2) The foreign exchange booth at Dulles doesn't open till 2:30pm--useless for said a.m. flight. However, there's a 24-hour booth at Heathrow just outside the baggage claim area.

3) When traveling, wear a shirt you wouldn't mind sleeping in--and wearing next day till your lost bag finally shows up. United Airlines provides a lovely overnight kit w/ toiletries and an oversized white T-shirt, but the latter is so scratchy with sizing as to be unwearable.

Favorite signs in London:
1) "Humped zebra crossing" - No, it's not for a dromedary equine, it's a raised pedestrian crosswalk.

2) "Mind your head" - This was over the low doorway going into the breakfast buffet at my hotel, but I think it's invaluable advice for all of life.

Favorite new Britishisms, learned from a London cabbie today:
1) "Sleeping policemen" = speed bumps, of which there are a nauseating number in Islington. Perfect for practicing hunt seat, as if going over a jump on a horse.

2) "Rat run" = cut-through side streets, many of which now contain sleeping policemen.

I met British writer Howard Jacobson (THE MAKING OF HENRY; ROOTS, SCHMOOTS: Journeys Among Jews, etc.) for brunch today. Ironically, given the subject of his books and my visit, almost every eatery on the block was Arab; we ate at a fantastic little Lebanese place where I also had dinner last night. I am now officially addicted to grilled halloumi (Cypriot cheese). Though Jacobson's people come from Manchester and Lithuania before then, and I keep discovering more cousins in & around Manchester, previously from Latvia & Lithuania, we established that we are not related by blood or marriage. So far, anyway; there are still more cousins to unearth.

And speaking of unearthing, I and 2 cousins were denied entrance to Edmonton Cemetery this afternoon (picture follows, once I figure out how to upload pix from my shiny new camera). Yes, the place closes at 4pm, but no one bothered to tell me that the gates lock up tight at 3pm. In another delicious irony, the cemetery immediately next to it--though separated by an immense block wall surmounted with barbed wire--is for Muslim Turks.

Grim view from the Greenway alongside Edmonton Cemetery.
(Yes, I know what it looks like...)


Anonymous said...

I would be opposed to a total ban on hot pants and tight tank tops, but the traditionalist in me says they don't belong on an international flight; we used to get dressed up just to go to Macy's. I pray the woman wearing a pink cowboy hat was a Londoner returning home with a quaint (read: tacky) American souvenir.

- your husband

Kathy Shearer said...

I'm enjoying your stories...You'll get the best rate of exchange using your ATM card at any "cash point" or "hole in the wall" as they call them over there -- to be found in every airport and outside all banks.