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My fourth of july

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Getting into the Brit v American spirit of the day, I managed to insult a friend this morning by inadvertently calling her middle-aged. Inadvertent because I was merely describing the clientele of a particular clothing store (Athleta). Which she happens to shop at.  This was a hole which I then tried to dig myself out of by mocking another store (Title Nine). Which she also shops at. So I decided to stop there and instead have a bit of a rant about Lululemon, which is far more acceptable as they are Canadian.

img001Anyway, my friend pointed out that if she were now middle-aged that means that she’ll live to well over 100. I hadn’t necessarily considered middle aged being the exact mid point of one’s life but it made me realize that if I die tomorrow then I was middle aged at 23.5 years which definitely makes sense because this is how I looked at that age.

However, if I am middle-aged right now then I will definitely make it to 94, unless I am ousted and forced back to England which will by then have disowned me and I will be left in Heathrow’s transit area along with the bones of Edward Snowden.

I realized while writing this that my middle-aged-dom was confirmed by a store far beyond Athleta or Title Nine. Yesterday I went to Instep, the Birkenstock store. Oh yes. And not even for Birkenstocks. I had to go in for a heel lift to put in my (non-Birkenstock) shoes. To try and correct my leg length discrepancy which might be causing my hip pain which might be causing my sciatic pain. If this doesn’t work, the next step is a built up shoe, though the  expression ‘over my dead (and lopsided) body’ comes to mind.

Anyway, sorry Vicki. Nothing middle-aged about you. Well, except for the Athleta/Title Nine thing of course.

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I was asked this week why I still hadn’t become an American citizen. My usual answer is that I’d never pass the naturalization exam, given my inability to distinguish between Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

But then it struck me today that perhaps the more likely reason is my avoidance of 4th July parades and dislike of fireworks. Actually I don’t dislike fireworks, it’s more the length of the average fireworks display in this country.

We do of course have fireworks in England. We shoot them off on November 5 to celebrate Guy Fawkes’ attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament. He didn’t quite make it, but at least he tried. As the saying goes, ‘if at first you don’t succeed, say fuck it and throw yourself a sparkler party.’

Due to the fact that it’s November and invariably cold, foggy and/or pissing down with rain, the fireworks are kept mercifully short. A good 10 minutes of oohs and aahs in a muddy field and we’re off home to try and wash the smell of bonfire and (pieces of) kebabs out of our hair

But, in a reminder perhaps to the Brits, the typical 4th of July fireworks display far outstays its welcome. It all starts off quite well, jumps straight in with some fairly impressive stuff, but then you get into into the middle(aged) section and it just goes on and on with the same old bangs and whizzes and you stop craning your neck and making oohing sounds. Finally, it gets interesting again and you get ready for the big close. But like a bad Steven Spielberg movie (A.I) it’s incapable of ending. And I’m not the only one that gets fooled. Everyone starts clapping and cheering and packing up the kids but hold on, we’ve got an encore before we even got to the end of the show. Oh and here comes another. And maybe even a third. Apparently this is what orgasms are like too.

Why not try for minimalist next year? You know, the whole less is more thing? Ten minutes tops. You already got rid of us America, there’s really no reason to brag.

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I know of at least 3 people in Austin who will be in Paris this summer. Hopefully that means July and not August when most Parisian business owners bugger off to the beach with their families, leaving behind aging parents and grandparents in the hope that nature will take its course.

Just heard on the news yesterday that Parisian waiters, hoteliers and taxi drivers have been given an ‘etiquette manual’ on how to deal with tourists.

“A six-page booklet entitled “Do you speak Touriste?” contains greetings in eight languages including German, Chinese and Portuguese and advice on the spending habits and cultural codes of different nationalities.”

I’m not entirely sure about the title, it doesn’t quite seem to fit with the spirit of the plan. May as well have called it, ‘Parlez-vous Foreigner?’ This whole thing has been prompted by concerns over the reputation of Parisians for rudeness to tourists, said the Paris Tourism Bureau which awoke this week after a 30 year deep sleep.

Even I was stunned by the apparent seriousness of the problem which has apparently caused concern that tourists may choose instead to go to friendlier cities like London.  Things must be bad.

Here’s the valuable insights from the Paris team:

“The British like to be called by their first names,” the guide explains, while Italians should be shaken by the hand and Americans reassured on prices.

Actually the British would probably settle for getting French waiters to make eye contact and an attempt to provide the service they’re getting paid for. I’ll happily take a ‘oui madame’ over some insincere and botched attempt to say my name.

When it comes to the Italians, I’m not sure what other body part they should be shaken with if not the hand, but this seems like pretty sound advice.

Americans needing to be reassured on price strikes me as odd. Most Parisian restaurants have a prix fixe menu and prices are displayed outside.  Who are these price-obsessed people whose only French learned in the language labs was ‘bonjour Sylvie, combien d’argent pour le blow job?’

Of course all this is mute anyway. Tourists wanting to go to Paris will continue to go and in the case of most Americans will congratulate themselves when they return home for the warm hospitality of their own country. No right-minded tourist will arrive at Gare Du Nord, take a quick look around and then hightail it over to London. We’ve got some of the best sights in the world but we can’t compete with a fresh baguette and a hunk o’ brie under the Eiffel Tower. The cheddar and chutney bap on a pigeon-poo splattered bench just doesn’t quite do it.






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