Well, this was our final full day in Washington. Tomorrow we would be setting off on our way to our new home in Calgary. So we felt the need to get out and take one last look at the state where we have been staying for over a month now.
So I have been in Washington for a while and one thing that I have noticed here is that the famous American Second Amendment is fully utilised. For those who do not know, this is the constitutional right for Americans to use and bear arms.
So Sue Me (Oh Wait I’m in America)
Now I am aware that there is a passionate debate pro-gun and anti-gun in the US, and I want to be careful to people’s sensitivities, after all, you do have guns. So as we all know ignorance is no defence, however to expect that I could know everything would be a bizarre pedestal to place me on, so I will just try to approach this subject as if I have some sort of foreign ignorance waiver to let me by. My aim is not go about this as some sort of anti-gun preacher. After all one of the reasons the US have their second amendment was so they didn’t have to listen to us English folk, and plus, we have already given you Piers Morgan to do rock that boat.
So after all that grovelling, if anybody does get offended by my lack of understanding or comparisons, then….erm…sorry I guess. I would say “so sue me” but over here I feel that is a very dangerous game to play. To be honest when American servers tell me “have a nice day” I’m surprised they do not make me sign a waiver in case I have a rubbish day and decides to sue them. So Americans, just call me a ‘left wing, hippy, communist’, or a ‘bad-teethed limey,’ or what ever is you think will insult me if it makes you feel better.
Logic and Guns
So people in the UK can have guns, they just need to have a licence, and preferably not to have the intention to use it to shoot at other human beings. Pheasants, ducks, partridge, all sorts of game birds and even deer may feel no benefit from this gun control, but generally, I will not see a gun in a public place. I can vividly remember as a primary schooler watching the tragic news coverage of the Dunblane School Massacre which preceded a move for tighter controls on guns controls in Britain. Obviously these sort of crimes have affected the US as well, but I will not go down that path here. It is interesting just how ingrained in many British peoples’ minds this incident seems to be, and how much we believe that controlling gun ownership will help prevent it from happening again.
From what I can see the logic for safety in the US is exactly the opposite. As a local said to me “if somebody knows that everybody has a gun, they will think twice before pulling something, and if they still do then they will probably get killed before they does people harm.” The argument is an intriguing one.
So you guys didn’t like being told what to do or how much taxes to pay to us English colonialists. To me that does seem fair enough, many other places didn’t either. So learning from history it seems that to break free from us English you can either peacefully not fight us, as Gandhi skilfully did, confusing us with a fearful lack of confrontation. Or you can just kick us in the groin by throwing all our tea in the Atlantic Sea and with your right to bear arms, send us off to drink it.
We used to have similar laws in the UK allowing us to shoot at people. Historic laws involved shooting the Welsh with bows and being scared of the Scottish. It seems that many countries have felt the need for their citizens to be prepared to bear arms for their security. Fortunately in the UK, the Welsh are not the threat to English that they once were and such laws have since become obsolete. So as for the USA perhaps the English threat just hasn’t gone away yet, after all …. Piers Morgan.
I See Guns
So I am in the North West of America, not Texas or Louisiana or the other Deep South places stereotyped for loving their weaponry. Yet still I can not help but be amazed by just how many people walk in public with holsters bulging from their hips. One evening myself and Sacha decided to go to the Bellingham’s cinema to watch a movie and I was amazed to see how many people walked into the theatre carrying popcorn, nachos, a fizzy drink, possibly a hot dog and a semi automatic weapon. It was constantly going through he back of my mind that I hope a bullet doesn’t. Speaking for myself, I felt less safe.
The Bad Guys
Well I had to ask some people I met, just to understand. Here is roughly how the conversations go;
Me: “Well it feels weird seeing people in public carrying guns”.
Them: “Yeah, we wouldn’t go out to eat without our gun.” What surprises me here is how matter of fact the responses are, no hint of irony or humour, it is just common sense.
Me: “Really? You take it to the restaurant with you?”
Them: “It comes everywhere.”
Me: “You think you need it all the time?”
Them: “Well you never know when the bad guy will come in, it would probably be the day I didn’t take it.”
I must admit, adults referring to somebody as “the bad guy” does seem a bit too close to Die Hard. However has we were discussing how nice Dim Sum was in Vancouver it amazed me that the person said “I’ve heard it is nice but I can’t go there, I’m not allowed to take my gun over the border.” It seems that the concern that we are surrounded by “bad guys” seems to descend very quickly into paranoia.
So My Thoughts
Well when wondering if the UK is safer than the USA and who is right , the pro or anti gun lobbyists, it occurs to me that I am moving to Canada and to be honest the views of an Englishman is the last thing an American wants or needs! Phew, a bullet dodged…maybe literally!
On a more important note the film we went to see was Divergent. It was a descent film to pass a couple of hours, but it has nothing on the Hunger Games trilogy in my opinion.
Something I have often experienced with a few people in the UK is that they can become a bit tetchy when it comes to the “Americanisation” of the English language. Yes Americans believe it or not, it really does bother some people that much. I may be simplifying the problem, but I think according to them troubled Brits, your exportation of TV, music and movies (or films in British) to us quaint folk is the reason that we do not speak like we belong in a Shakespeare play anymore. Hang your heads in shame, “more of your conversation would infect my brain.” (A bit of Will for you there).
Well for the sake of Anglo-English relations, I thought I should weigh in with my own experiences while in the US. Here are my results;
The Americanisation of Road Safety
Obviously driving is an important thing to get right. Just when I panic and shout “oh my God, we are on the wrong side of the road, I’m going to crash and die!,” I must remember that it is ok, they have chosen to drive on this side. As long as your steering wheel is not closer to the pavement than the road then I am ok.
But wait, an important lingo thing to get right here is what is meant by the words ‘pavement’ and ‘road.’ It seems that these words do not necessarily mean the same thing to our two countries, as I found out when Todd told me “to just drive along the pavement until you get to the traffic lights.” Yikes, I thought, you seem to be instructing me to cause carnage in your own neighbourhood. Well to my relief he actually he wasn’t. To him a ‘pavement’ is the ‘road,’ whereas I understood a ‘pavement’ to be what he calls a ‘sidewalk.’ I don’t think the word ‘road’ has become obsolete though.
Another word issue arose when I was asked to go and fill up the vehicle with “gas.” I believe this to be a sophisticated level of mind games by the Americans here, for in fact it is the liquid which we pour into our cars (sorry, automobiles) which they call ‘gas.’ Try to work that one out.
The Americanisation of Cuisine
Misunderstandings when it comes to food is a constant hazard where I must remain vigilant. I say this because today I was offered biscuits and gravy. Apparently this is a real American treat. However to my british mind this does not sound like a treat, it sounds pretty disgusting, and all my imagination can conjure is an image of digestives covered in bisto.
For info, digestives are a sweet-meal biscuit, I do not believe they aid digestion any more than any other normal cookie, but I stand to be corrected. While Bisto is a type of gravy to have with meat and vegetables, it is very tasty, but does not belong on biscuits or cookies. The problem for me here is us British people think a biscuit is what an American would call a cookie and a cookie in the UK is called….well that is still called a cookie too. In truth I really do not know how we Brits differentiate between a biscuit and a cookie. If anybody does know please feel free to fill me in. The American biscuit that was offered to me was actually made with soft dough and the gravy is a white flour gravy.
I have also found that croissants in the local supermarket do not come served as I have been used to. Over here they can be found in the refrigerator section prepared with sausage, egg and cheese awaiting to be heated and served. To be honest I think it is best we do not tell the French about this, I don’t think we want them to feel any distain for the US.
Shopping for vegetables also require some tricky word substitutions to avoid blank looks and confused stares;
- Coriander is called cilantro, this sounds quite agreeable.
- A courgette is called a zucchini, this perhaps sounds preferable.
- An aubergine however is called an eggplant, this sounds repulsive.
So Should People Worry About Americanisation?
Well in my opinion the short answer for this is no. This is because life is too short, and you can do nothing about it anyway, even if you do care. But it can be a source of great amusement, to compare our differences. So that is that.
You’re From London, Right?
It appears to be an inescapable fact, when words come out of my mouth in America they make me sound English. Actually people here assume that I am from London. I know this to be true because the first questions I am often asked by locals here are;
“love the accent, you’re from London, right?”
“we love the Royal family, do you see them in London?”
“you sound like the people on that TV show Downton Abbey, you know, set in old London” (Downton Abbey isn’t actually set in London, but it is set near where I come from in North Yorkshire. But I still do not think I sound like them).
Actually most people who are from the UK would hear my voice and conclude that I am not from London, and probably not from anywhere south of Birmingham for that matter. Explaining this to the people of the US however, is a more difficult task. Some people will look at me confused, while others will completely ignore my assertion and continue to ask me about London house prices, the cost of living in the capital or the dangers of London rioters. While people in America may have heard of Manchester or Liverpool, I can only assume many believe that they must merely be satellites of London.
The UK is Small
So why do people think I live so close to London? Well I have come to the conclusion that it is because I do. In the same time it might take me to drive from the north of England to London, I would just be able to get across the State of Washington. In fact I could get a train and be in London from York in 2 hours. People over here will drive for that amount of time for a good taco. Our island is small.
For that matter I believe that people in the US can probably drive anywhere, for anything, for no reason because they do not need directions. If somebody needs to go to San Francisco from Lynden then just go south on the I-5 for 900 miles and they will be there before they know it. However, as Sacha always tells me, in the UK we will argue for hours about shaving 2 minutes off a one hour journey. She will despairingly witness me and my dad arguing whether it is faster to go via a motorway or via shortcuts over country roads.
Also Sacha tells me that UK people always give direction starting from “the roundabout.” Wether it is a journey to the dentist or a visit to the next city, the directions always start with, “you go to the roundabout and turn…”
It is simply assumed that of the many thousands of roundabouts in the UK you will drive to the correct one and start your journey from there. The US prevent this problem by not having many roundabouts. In my opinion this is something we should consider in the UK.
The Odd Rules of being British
So the USA is bigger than the UK and it has 50 states with numerous different climates and geographies. There are deserts, forests, mountains, canyons, lakes, snow and islands. I suspect it is because the US is so large that people here love to raise their national flag and sing their anthem to show that they are united.
In comparison the people in the UK are very peculiar about their identities. An extrovert showing of national fervour is often looked upon as being extravert to the point of embarrassment. British people will also seemingly show rivalry to anyone who will listen. Myself being from North Yorkshire, this is how it might work for myself;
- I am from the Yorkshire, so I shouldn’t like Lancashire, our neighbouring county. The colour of our symbolic roses are somehow offensive to each other.
- However Yorkshire and Lancaster are northern counties, and so we northerners are united in our distain of southerners for being “soft,” and because they probably think we are backwards and brusk.
- However us Northerners and Southerners both shouldn’t like the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish, because they really don’t like us.
- Our four countries form the UK and the UK does not want to be part of Europe because we do not want their colourful money, tasty cuisines and superior cultural tastes.
- And finally, on rare occasions, us Europeans look at those Americans patriotically chanting U S A, U S A. So we must sing football chants at them back….just because.
The funny thing is, many people from the UK, or Europe will not miss an opportunity to mention how crazy those Americans are. I think shall reserve my judgement, my own back yard may not look so sane at the moment.
The Camels of Washington
So what to do in Washington when we have a day with blue skies and sunshine?……Thats obvious, go ride the camels!
Believe it or not this is not as strange as it first sounds. Apparently there have been camels in the US since at least 1855 when the US Camel Corps was created as a military experiment. By all accounts the experiment failed, as the camels where just not as cooperative as the tried and trusted horse. Camels have since remained in the US however, and were even used for agricultural and transport purposes. As beasts of burden they definitely have their uses.
Nowadays I believe most camels in the US are beasts of leisure, predominately used as tourist attractions and local novelties. Though in 2009 the US did pass a law allowing the sale of camel milk within the country. Before that it had been considered that the production could not be regulated sufficiently. Perhaps now we may see an increasing number imported for this purpose?
So as I was looking on the Whatcom County website to find a fun activity in the sun, when the words ‘Camel Safari’ caught my eye. It turned out that this was a good way to kill a couple of hours out in the sun and ask a few questions about camels. Here is what I now know about them;
the calf is born without a hump. The hump develops as the calf gains fat tissue.
- a one humped camel is called a Dromedary
- a two humped camel is called a Bactrian
- they can be mixed to create hybrids
- hybrids do not have three humps
- camels do not have any upper teeth
- camels have two sets of eyelashes to protect their eyes from dust
- they can also close up their nostrils to protect from the dust
and I’m sure there are many other facts that I should have retained but was two busy taking photos.
We then got to have a ride on the camels. Apparently you do not sit on top of the hump, this would just give you a big wedgie. In front, or behind the hump is fine, though in Sacha’s case if a camel wants to bend over to graze this may give the uninitiated a fright. The ride was great and we had an awesome view of Mount Baker in the clear blue skies as we rode.
So if you fancy riding a camel in your lifetime, maybe consider visiting Washington?