Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Fat Sandwich

The origin of the word "sandwich," we are told, comes from the 18th Century, when John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, asked his valet to bring him meat between two slices of bread, so he could eat and play cards without getting in a mess. Sandwiches have been a popular way to eat conveniently ever since.

In Britain, not many eat the cucumber or cress sandwich, cut into dainty triangles and with the crust removed, as many imagine ladies of the aristocracy nibble after a game of croquet. However, The British sandwich is typically a thin, rather limp affair, with one slice of meat between two pieces of buttered, sliced bread. Mustard or some kind of pickle relish might be an option, if you're lucky.

In the United States, sandwiches are usually as big, if not bigger than a regular meal. Slice upon slice of meat, often more than one type of meat, are piled high, and with mustard, mayonnaise, etc., added to the equation, eating it can be a messy affair. There are hot sandwiches and cold sandwiches. In typical American style, choosing a sandwich can be a mind-blowing exercise, since you'll have a choice of breads, spreads, meats, accompaniments and condiments.

That's one reason I rather enjoy the "Fat Sandwiches" offered by "Sunshine Burgers," a friendly place in my neighborhood. There is quite a long list of these sandwiches, with such semi-offensive names as "Fat Mom," "Fat Dad," (my daughter loves me ordering that one!) "Fat B*tch" and "Fat B*stard," but you order the sandwich, and get what's listed on the menu. The sandwiches are cylindrical, being served in baguette-like bread, and are a meal in themselves. I do mean a meal; one sandwich can include things like Philly-style cheesesteak, fries, salad, and everything but the kitchen sink.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


I love flying! However, I never flew until my early thirties. While many of my friends flew to popular Brit holiday spots like Spain and Portugal, I never did. So my first flight was with my then girlfriend to Athens, from where we were going to take a catamaran to the island of Spetses,

I was very excited. I loved every part of the flight, even when we hit a little turbulence!

We were due to get to Greece in the evening. I sat near the window, so I could see everything, and I'm glad I did, because as we approached Athens, we banked, and I had a beautiful view of lights up in the mountains. We actually had to walk across the tarmac once we'd landed, and I got my first experience of the Summer heat in Athens.

The arrival at Athens was less thrilling, since there was some mix up about where our party was meant to be going. The plane had arrived a little late and we were not going to be able to move on until the morning. Some of us started sleeping on the floor in the airport, until armed police moved us out! Our tour guide was able to get us to the city center, where we relaxed in the lounge of a hotel.

I have to say I still love flying, even though it's more of a chore these days with the family. Our flights to England are about 7 hours, the planes are not as comfortable, and the services are more limited. When I first started flying to the US, there was plenty of complimentary alcohol. Not so much these days. But for some reason, I still enjoy the turbulence!

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Great American Heathcare Debate

Entering a clinic in the US for the first time many years ago, I was shocked to find that the very first office door that greeted me was labeled "Financial Consultant." Shocked is not too mild a word to use. I think my Wife was surprised by my reaction. I really found it offensive. She was just used to it.

Healthcare is a huge issue in the news right now, as one of the things that President Obama promised if he got into power was "universal healthcare." Because I come from a country with so-called "socialized medicine," I have been asked many times just recently about how healthcare works in Britain. This is hardly surprising, since opponents of the proposed plan have often said things like, "We don't want a system like Britain or Canada" as if this is a bad thing. Even my own Doctor, during a routine check-up, started quizzing me about whether I preferred the US or UK healthcare system. I told him that, although not perfect, the National Health Service in the UK did ensure that everyone, whether they could afford it or not, was covered. His response was that anyone in the US could get free treatment in hospital emergency rooms. I didn't get a chance to say what I really wanted to, that I thought it would be really nice if the poor didn't have to wait until it became an emergency. Those who cannot afford health insurance either put off treatment, often until it's too late, or fill emergency rooms with non-emergency cases, stretching those already overworked departments.

Criticism of the National Health Service, mostly unfounded, by American opponents of Obama's plan has had a surprising effect amongst the British. A British friend wrote to me, "4 million Brits twittered in defence of the NHS almost crashing it. The debate is happening here---Fox news found an MEP (not MP), who defended the American 'healthcare only for those who can afford it' system, to spout some hysterical rightwing piffle. It has had a dramatic effect---the conservatives have gone from a shoe in, to an even contest in a week." He was talking about the opinion polls comparing the incumbent Labour party with the Conservative Party.

Conservatives in the US have been raising a very noisy protest against the proposals. Past vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin started talking nonsense about Obama creating "death-panels" of bureaucrats who would make life or death decisions about our nearest and dearest. While Obama and his supporters have talked about 47 Million people in the US being uninsured, there are people who deny those figures, mentioning illegal immigrants (who wouldn't be included in the count anyway), Millionaires (this includes property which people would have to sell if they needed healthcare) and people who are in the process of switching insurance. The figures are probably much worse, because poor people often take a gamble on health insurance, taking it out some years and not others.

The right-wing have also gotten many ordinary working people scared that they are going to lose their choice of coverage. In the UK, if you can afford it, you can take out insurance and be treated privately. However, if you cannot afford to do this, you're still covered. This is what's being proposed in the US. In fact people will have more choice, not less.

These scare tactics take advantage, I think, of a deep-rooted "take care of yourself" ethic in the US. Another friend of mine, this time in Canada, said, "They keep saying 'I don't want to be socialized' like public health care and caring about our neighbours is a bad thing." I think that not only is universal healthcare the right thing to do, especially for the richest country in the world, but it's short-sighted for individuals to only consider their own situation right now. What happens if you get laid-off from your job, or want to start your own small business? US healthcare is big business, and that is where I believe things go wrong. The health of our people is essentially an issue of infrastucture.

Do you still think the US healthcare system works just fine now? The World Health Organization would disagree.

What do you think? I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Weeksworth of Worthy Links - August 2-August 8, 2009

I'm trying a new feature, please let me know what you think by posting a comment.

During the course of a week, I read through quite a few news stories, blog posts and other pages on the web that I think would interest my own readers. Starting today, I'll post links to some of the best of them here.

Stowaway hid on Border Agency bus (BBC News)

A man walks into a bar (and other clichés) (A Brit Out Of Water)

The Best Cauliflower for Years (Elaine's British & Irish Food Blog -

Rock n' Roll Public Library Opens in London (Book Patrol)

Bio of Beatles' Sgt. Pepper in the Works (Book Patrol)

Drinkers drown out downturn at British beer festival (Expatica)

Shed and done: Boris Johnson forced to pull down illegal summer house (

When the dreaded call from home comes (

Who were the Great Train Robbers? (BBC2)

Wish you weren't here, Greece tells tourists (The Independent)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Warm Beer and Other Beer Fallacies

It was my birthday recently, and like any good Brit, I had a few beers. In fact, I posted photos of them in an album on my Facebook page. A friend of mine (Hi Tina) said in a comment about one of them that she hoped I drank it warm, since I was English. This reminded me that a blog post about the "warm beer fallacy" was long overdue.

British beer is mostly brewed to be drunk at "cellar temperature." Most pubs in Britain have underground cellars, where the kegs of draught beers are kept. The beer is therefore cold, because it is kept underground, but it is not chilled. If UK beer were to be chilled to the degree that American beer usually is, it would lose most of its flavor. One notable exception is Guinness, which is usually a little colder than most other British beers, and is a lot colder in its trendy "Extra Cold" variety.

On the other hand, American beer is brewed to be chilled. Sometimes the heavy "mugs" that are used in bars are actually frozen. You see signs outside bars saying "Coldest Beer in Town" which is meant to be attractive. To me, "Tastiest Beer in Town" would be more likely to get me through the door. If you drank most American beers at "cellar temperature," they would almost certainly taste bad, something like cereal in water.

Having addressed that fallacy, I would like to talk about another one. That is the assumption that American beer is bad. True, the very popular beers such as Budweiser, Coors and Miller are what I like to call "Beer for people who don't like the taste of beer," especially in their "Lite" versions. I was disappointed to hear that President Obama opted for Bud Lite during the recent so-called Beer Summit at The Whitehouse. However, there are many fantastic American-brewed beers. Most come from small independent breweries, often referred to as microbreweries. Some of these are made in the restaurants in which they are served, and others are bottled and distributed in some of the better liquor stores. Major breweries have tried to cash in on the trendiness of microbrews. Blue Moon, a Belgian-style beer that contains orange peel and coriander, is brewed by Coors. Keen to try to keep its microbrewery look and feel, Coors started by putting "Brewed by CBC" (Coors Brewing Company) on the bottle, but that has recently been completely removed, and it is currently advertised as being made by "The Blue Moon Brewing Company."

One beer that I am enjoying these days is Samuel Adams Boston Ale, which is available quite widely. On my birthday, I managed to locate Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, which was wonderfully hoppy to these British taste buds. If you saw my series of blog posts from my recent vacation in San Diego, you'll probably recall that I found some great local beers, including Red Trolley, Stone's Pale Ale and Firehouse American Pale Ale.

I have been helped in my quest for good beer by my recent discovery of the Beer Advocate website. Operated by Beer Advocate magazine, one can join free, and gain access to many reviews of beers and establishments serving beer. One neat feature is that you can enter a beer that you particularly like, and it will suggest some excellent examples of similar beers you might enjoy.

I love talking beer! Please do share some suggestions with me and your fellow readers by posting a comment.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009 and The Best of British

A friend of mine on Facebook, Celeste, recently introduced me to the music service, Having enjoyed it immensely, I wanted to share it with my readers, and offer you a little gift (see below). is a subsidiary of Music Rights Technologies Inc., a company that creates products to distribute on-line media securely. It offers several ways to enjoy and share its comprehensive (and growing) catalog of music for free. Firstly, I should mention that the media players they provide, sound great. The default player uses Flash, and plays at 160kb/s. An upgraded player, which plays at 320kb/s, is available if you register with the site (which is free). I had a few technical problems when I used the upgraded player, probably due to lack of bandwidth, but I am perfectly happy with the quality of the default player.

What you are allowed to hear depends on where you are listening from, and whether you are registered with the service. For example, if you are in the USA and you are registered, you can actually listen to entire albums if you wish. In addition, you can listen to what BlueBeat refers to "Live Collections," which fall into one of three categories, "Artist," "Time Machine" and "Killer Playlist." Artist is somewhat obvious and represents all available tracks from an artist. A Time Machine is a collection of music from a particular time-period or genre. There are Time Machines for Synthpop and "The British Invasion" for example. A Killer Playlist is a handpicked "cream of the crop" collection based on a genre or theme.

One feature that makes BlueBeat very exciting for me is that it allows registered users to create what it calls "crates." A crate is a user-defined playlist that allows one to become a DJ. It may contain any combination of songs, albums and Live Collections. One neat thing about live collections is that they can expand when new music becomes available to BlueBeat users. The one restriction to a crate is that it must consist of at least, around 3 hours (40 tracks) of diverse material. This must meet the guidelines of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which means that it cannot deliver more than three songs from the same album within a 3-hour period to a particular listener, and cannot deliver more than four songs from the same artist within a 3-hour period to a particular listener. As long as you have a "diverse" crate, the player software takes care of the rest. Once you have created a crate, it can be listened to by anyone.

So now, I can get to the reason I wanted to write about BlueBeat in this blog. For the listening pleasure of my readers, I created a crate called Best of British. It is an evolving collection of what I consider the best of British music over the years. It contains mainly Rock, Pop and Folk and includes the British Invasion and Brit-Pop "time machines." So you might hear music by Billy Bragg, The Beatles, Fairport Convention, Erasure, Saint Etienne, Blur and Ultravox, among others.

I hope you enjoy it. Please let me know by dropping me a comment. I would also like you to think about what you might include in such a collection. If I get enough suggestions, I will create a brand new crate to include them.

Friday, July 10, 2009

I Don't Get Guns, Cowboy

I'm now convinced this is an irreconcilable cultural barrier linked to "The Old West" and other historical events, but I cannot get my head around the American fascination with guns.

Mrs. Adolph Topperwein. [with gun] (LOC)

How ever many times someone says "guns don't kill people, people kill people," I have to say that if that person didn't have a gun in their hand, they probably would not be doing as much damage.

I know there has been a big problem with knife violence in Britain, but I believe there's a fundamental difference between using a knife and a gun. You use a knife, and you actually have to connect with the person you're attacking. Forgive me for putting this image in your head, but you have to feel it going in your victim. With a gun, it's almost like pushing a button - there's no connection. Plus there's all that room for "collateral damage," not to mention gun accidents.

I originally thought the guns/no guns argument was political - that Republicans were pro-gun and Democrats were anti-gun, but that's not entirely true. On a semi-related theme, I can't understand why someone can think that keeping records of gun-owners is an invasion of individual's privacy, while at the same time thinks that keeping DNA records of participants at a perfectly legal political protest is fair game. Or for that matter why so many "pro-lifers" are also pro death-penalty.

Having talked about guns, I will point out an interesting fact for the benefit of my British friends: Maybe it's just the circles I move in, but despite living in New Jersey (legendary home to mobsters and all sorts of shady characters) for more than ten years, the only people I've ever seen with a gun in real-life are cops.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Eleven Doctors, Torchwood and Wossy!

A work colleague, who knows I'm a big fan of the British science fiction series Doctor Who, and is a fan herself, recently sent me a link to this article in the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph. I was excited to read that a special fifteen-minute episode of Doctor Who was planned to be shown for Children in Need, a big TV charity event, similar to America's Telethon. Apparently, it was to feature David Tennant, the eleventh person to play the Doctor (part of the plot has The Doctor regenerating periodically) and all the Doctors' past. That includes parts from actors no longer with us, using clips from old shows. As a fan, this got me very excited! Doing a little more research, I found the article was based on this "exclusive" from another British newspaper, The Daily Mirror. The comments on this particular article are quite revealing! The Mirror piece, quoting unnamed sources, is almost identical to a story the newspaper ran when Christopher Eccleston, the previous actor who played The Doctor, was still playing the part. My guess is that the episode won't happen, but I can dream, can I not?

Seeing this story did remind me of some more tangible news for American fans of British shows, however. Torchwood, which is a spin-off of Doctor Who, is coming back to BBC America. This year, the BBC made a five-part mini-series version of the show, called Children of Earth, and it will be aired in the UK starting tonight. Here in the US, it will be shown on five consecutive evenings, starting on Monday, July 20th. BBC America is currently showing the previous season, which might help you catch up, if you are interested.

I was very pleased to see that Friday Night with Jonathan Ross has started showing on Friday nights on BBC America. It's one of the few shows on BBC America that airs pretty close to its original broadcast date (I think it's about two weeks behind the UK). The first episode that aired featured Dustin Hoffman, Hugh Laurie and soccer player turned actor, Eric Cantona. While you might think that would be a great lineup, unfortunately, all the guests were a little subdued on this occasion. Ross (or @wossy as he is known on Twitter) had a real struggle to keep the show going. That was such a shame for the introduction to the US of this show, and probably put some off. It is worth sticking with, though. Subsequent episodes have been excellent, featuring Jack Black, and Take That, among others. Like The Graham Norton Show, also on BBC America, Ross's show delivers chat with a good dose of British humor.

Do you have a favorite British TV show airing in the US? Do you have a favorite Brit show that you wish would come to America? Brits: what goodies are we missing? Make a comment and let us all know.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Love and Dancing

I have written here before of my love of American folk music and acoustic singer-songwriters, but I do not think I have mentioned my secret weakness for 1980s synthpop. I consider it secret because my Wife hates it, so I usually end up playing it when she is not around. Fortunately, my five-year-old daughter seems to like it too, and we are often to be found bopping in the kitchen to Erasure, The Human League, Yazoo (known as Yaz in the US), OMD, Depeche Mode or The Thompson Twins.

As a late-adopter of CDs, I have a huge collection of vinyl records at my parents' house in England, left there because of the expense and difficulty in getting them over to the US. Among the collection is an album from 1982 called Love and Dancing, which is billed as being by "The League Unlimited Orchestra." I recently obtained a copy of the album, which was always very dear to my heart, and it has made me insanely happy.

Love and Dancing is essentially an album of dance remixes of tracks from the influential Dare album, which was made in 1981 by the Sheffield band, The Human League. It was one of the very first remix albums, a producer project, and as such was groundbreaking. Martin Rushent, the producer of Dare, put it together the hard way, by cutting up tapes. Rushent is now 61 and back producing after retiring from the business.

Listening again to this album after so long instantly transported me back to the eighties. I fondly remember a street performer in London's Covent Garden doing a fantastic but hilarious robotic dance to tracks from the album. Its stuttering style was perfect for the purpose. I have been playing it rather a lot just recently, so it is a good job my daughter likes it. My Wife does not, and when I asked my Brother in England what he thought of it, he said that he always preferred the original. So, perhaps I am pretty much on my own. I did ask on Twitter and Facebook if anyone remembered it and one friend in England (Hi Paul!) said he does have the album and likes it.

Getting this album has prompted me to get the rest of The Human League's albums (some of which I had on vinyl in England). It has also got me catching up with some of my other favorite artists of that period. It has even got me checking out web-resources about old synthesizers (I used to play synths myself in the eighties). I think you could say this was an influential album for me.

If you have any interest in Love and Dancing or The Human League, I discovered that a cool CD containing both Dare and Love and Dancing was released in 2002. That is a bargain!

Do you have favorite music from your past that instantly conjures up a particular period in time for you? Please do share by making a comment.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I Might Still Be in Luton If Not For the Web

Some of my American friends, knowing that I do so much on the Internet, think that I must use it to keep in touch with friends and family in England. The truth is, with the exception of my Brother, who got his first computer just a month or two back, very few of them have access to the Internet. Or if they do, they rarely use it. So, having been online since before the widespread use of the World Wide Web (I was around in the days of online Bulletin Board Systems), I've been a bit of a pioneer.

As I've written elsewhere, I met my American Wife (while I was living in my home town of Luton, England) through a mutual love of American folk music. We were both on a discussion group for singer-songwriter Dar Williams, when she e-mailed me about something I said on the group. A friendship grew over the Internet, which turned into love.

When we married, I moved here, and while I was waiting for a work permit, I took an online course to keep my computer skills up to date. A chance e-mail to my instructor led to him employing me. I've worked for the company for around ten years.

These days, I have made many friends through the Internet, on sites like Twitter and Facebook. Using e-mail, the Web and Social Media sites has helped me with my work for local nonprofit and community groups. Of course, it has enabled me to write my blog, which is a welcomed creative outlet. I'm grateful too, that I have a small group of faithful readers, scattered around the globe

As someone who has always been a little shy, I do believe that if it wasn't for the Internet, I might still be living in my home town of Luton.

Monday, June 8, 2009

My Name is Sue - How Do You Do!

While I like the idea of having an unusual name (and Graham is quite unusual in my adopted home here in the US), in practice, it can be very tedious. Mostly, because people here frequently misspell it, or mis-hear it. Very often, people think I've said "Brian," or they want to spell it "Gram," or "Grahm." It's so American to want to economize on the number of letters in a name. Perhaps it would benefit me to have an empowering name, such as "Stone," "Brett," "Brad," or perhaps the most empowering of them all, "Sue" (With a big nod to The Man In Black).

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Marmite - Love It or Hate It?

There are only a few British products I must have in the US. Branston Pickle is one of them (and I am sure that will be the subject of a forthcoming post here). Marmite is another. When I first moved here, I had some difficulty finding it, and so I instructed English friends coming over here to bring a jar over. I have since found it from time to time in the so-called "International aisle" at some grocery stores, and I usually make a point of picking some up if I see it in a place like that, because it can be expensive in specialist British food stores or online.

If you have never heard of Marmite or you are not certain what it is, I am not sure a description will suffice. Of course, even if you know what it is, you may be one of those in the "Hate It" camp. Marmite is a great divider. People either love it or hate it. The manufacturers of Marmite have actually exploited this characteristic of their product, and "Love It or Hate It" has become an advertising slogan. The official Marmite website even has Love It and Hate It sections. I love it. The rest of my family hates it.

So what exactly is in the characteristic glass jar that causes such a love/hate reaction? Originally a by-product of the brewing industry, the thick, salty, sticky dark-brown goo is yeast extract. It is also rich in Vitamin B complex, which helped sales of the product when vitamins were discovered in the early 20th Century. It was also given to troops suffering from beriberi (a vitamin deficiency) during World War I. The name Marmite comes from the French word for an earthenware pot, and it did originally come in an earthenware jar. You can find out more about the history of Marmite on the Marmite Wikipedia page.

It has a very strong taste. Often used as a spread on bread or toast, I recommend people to spread it very thinly, so as not to be overpowering. Many people enjoy it with cheese in a sandwich. Because spreading the thick substance often destroys soft bread, the company introduced a slightly thinner product in a "squeezy" plastic jar ideal for this purpose. Unfortunately, this has resulted in the removal of the cute 57g size jar from the product range.

Marmite is also produced in New Zealand, although it has a different flavor, being slightly sweeter than the British version. That product is available in New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific Islands. Readers may also be familiar with the Australian product Vegemite. I have always described Vegemite as "Marmite for Wimps."

What else can you do with Marmite? An English friend, Emma Bruce, recommends it spread on toast with scrambled egg on top, or in a sandwich with cucumber. Chef Gary Rhodes came up with some recipes featuring Marmite, to help celebrate the launch of the "squeezable" product. A British photographer, food blogger and host of an underground restaurant who goes by the nickname of MsMarmiteLover even came up with a special menu, which featured Marmite in each dish, for an evening at her dining establishment. It apparently went down rather well!

So where do you stand on the "Love it or Hate it" question? Do you have any favorite recipes or Marmite stories? Let me know!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Tarot Reading

As some of you know, I am a part-time tarot card reader. You may recall I was interviewed for a piece in the blog Cindy's Country Corner a while back, and one of the questions I was asked was about my readings. After this, Cindy asked me to do a reading for her, and asked if I would mind if she did another article, this time about the reading.

I agreed, and I am glad I did! The article has been published and it is very fair. Actually, I would expect nothing else, since Cindy was once a newspaper editor. I'd go even further and say I was thrilled with the article, since it provides a real-life demonstration of what I do, and an excellent critique of the reading itself.

If you have considered having a tarot reading, but are a little hesitant, please check the piece out. Even if you are just a little curious, I recommend it as an entertaining read.

A Tarot Reading (Cindy's Country Corner)

Tarot Readings by Foucault (My Tarot Website)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Rumpole of the Bailey

When I think of the British Justice system, I cannot help thinking of a TV show from my youth, Crown Court. This was a daytime show that showed the British courtroom in all its glory, wigs, gowns and all. I should imagine many other people think of the long-running TV series, Rumpole of the Bailey, when they think of British courts. That is no doubt true even in the US, where the series was shown on PBS (Public Broadcasting Service).

Rumpole started life in a BBC Play for Today in 1975. It evolved into a series, which ran from 1978 to 1992. Leo McKern played the part of Rumpole throughout. The screenwriter of that show, author and ex-barrister John Mortimer, died recently, as covered in my blog post John Mortimer - A Great British Treasure. I had only read a couple of Mortimer's non-Rumpole novels, and barely remember the TV series, so I thought it was about time I read one of the Rumpole books. The books were based on the TV series. I chose The First Rumpole Omnibus, which contains three books: Rumpole of the Bailey, The Trials of Rumpole and Rumpole's Return. These cover the first two series of the show, plus a special.

Horace Rumpole always acts for the Defense, and believes strongly in the foundation of British law that one is "innocent until proven guilty." He never pleads guilty. He prefers to appear at the most iconic of all courts, The Old Bailey, and wears a wig "bought second hand from a former Chief Justice of Tonga" in 1932. An older gentleman, he often mentions winning The Penge Bungalow Murder Case, in his heyday. He is an expert on bloodstains and typewriters. He often appears, much to his chagrin, before Judges Bullingham (who is usually sympathetic towards the prosecution) and Vosper. He frequently quotes passages from The Oxford Book of English Verse (The Arthur Quiller-Couch edition). He usually visits Pommeroy's Wine Bar for a glass or two of "Chateau Fleet Street," before heading home to his Wife, Hilda, who he refers to as, "She who must be obeyed."

The first part of the anthology, Rumpole of the Bailey, contains short stories, each describing a case. Some cases Rumpole wins, some he loses. The same is true of the second book, The Trials of Rumpole. However, the second book comes to a climax with Rumpole, seemingly railroaded into retiring by his family and colleagues. The third book, Rumpole's Return, sees Rumpole and his Wife living with his son, a professor at the University of Miami, Florida. This follows an unlucky run of ten losses before Justice Bullingham, and a decision to retire. After receiving a letter from one of his ex-colleagues, Rumpole decides to return to his old chambers, where he takes on a seemingly unwinnable murder case. The accused and the victim were seen on a platform on the London Underground, and the accused was found in the possession of a note seemingly written in the victim's blood.

The book is a tremendous read. Rumpole is a very sympathetic character, and the wonderful stories are written very well. Clive James, writing in The Observer, is quoted as saying, "I thank heaven for small mercies. The first of these is Rumpole." I could not agree more!

Do you remember Rumpole? Are you familiar with the books? Please post a comment and let me know what you think.

Monday, May 11, 2009

An Englishman in San Diego - The Home Stretch

Once we had moved to the Sheraton Hotel and Marina for my Wife's conference, my daughter and I were alone during the day. I decided it was time to relax and not try to do quite so much each day. The first day (the seventh of our vacation), we had a lazy day at the hotel, watching TV, reading, playing and so on. We went down to the hotel lobby for a while, so I could take advantage of the free Wi-Fi there (it was $12 per day in the room, despite the entire marina area having a free Wi-Fi service, which the Sheraton blocked).

In the evening, once my Wife had finished for the day, we headed out to San Diego's Old Town district. This historic area has lots of restaurants, many of them Mexican, and many interesting places to see, especially in its Old Town State Historic Park. The park contains period buildings, some in their original locations and some that were moved in. Old Town also contains The Whaley House, supposedly the most haunted house in the United States. We were in the area to soak up the atmosphere and eat Mexican food.

The next day (Tuesday), my daughter and I spent time at Balboa Park. This beautiful and expansive park contains 15 museums and many other attractions. Many of the buildings in the park were originally built as temporary structures for the 1915-1916 Panama-California Exposition, and have since been rebuilt. Upon arriving there, we discovered that the day you visit is extremely important, if you have specific things you want to see. I had heard about the narrow-gauge railway and the carousel, and hoped to take my daughter there, but upon arrival, I found that they were only open on Sundays. A local Mom I spotted there suggested that my daughter might enjoy The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, so that is where we went next. This museum, with its many interactive exhibits, was a lot of fun, and I highly recommend it. After we ate lunch, we headed for the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater, which we discovered closed on Mondays and Tuesdays! Still, the park has a lot to offer and it is worth spending the entire day there.

My daughter and I spent the day before we were due to leave, relaxing in the marina area and the hotel. We had breakfast at Papanani's Deli at the marina, where we discovered the antidote to the hotel's expensive offerings. The food was delicious and the people were friendly. They put on children's TV for my daughter and I had unblocked access to the marina's free Wi-Fi!

In the evening, the family went down to Seaport Village for our final San Diego dinner, this time at Buster's Beach House & Longboard Bar. This fun bar and restaurant has a Hawaiian theme, and the food and beer are both great. I ate (and thoroughly recommend) the Pork Luau and Macadamia Nut-Crusted Chicken. I enjoyed Firehouse Pale Ale, brewed by firefighters who use the proceeds to support the widows and families of firefighters and to provide equipment to local firehouses.

That wonderful meal marked the end of our San Diego vacation. By six the next morning, we were reluctantly on our way to the airport, for the smooth and trouble-free flight back to New Jersey. Thank you San Diego, for making us feel so welcome.

I hope you have enjoyed this little series documenting the wonderful time we had in San Diego. Are you familiar with the area? Would you like to visit? Please do post comments or questions - I would love to hear from you.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

An Englishman in San Diego - Birthday, Beasts, Burritos, Backstage and Beer

The fifth day of our San Diego vacation was also the day my four-year-old daughter turned five. This day was all about her. We spent the day at the world-renowned San Diego Zoo. I remember being excited to visit this zoo the last time we were here, because I had heard so much about it. I also remember being very slightly disappointed, perhaps because my expectations were set so high by what I had heard. San Diego has been at the forefront of many advances in zoology, such as breeding programs and animal enrichment (providing enclosures, items and activities to stimulate their minds and bodies). The facility itself seems just a little old-fashioned compared to some of the other zoos I have been to. Nevertheless, I do recommend a visit if you get a chance.

For my daughter's birthday dinner we went to Fred's Mexican Cafe in The Gaslamp Quarter. This area of San Diego, with its bars, restaurants and trendy shopping, is full of activity, especially during the evenings. Fred's Mexican Cafe is a lively bar and restaurant, offering Mexican favorites with a healthy California twist. It is also the place that my daughter, then two years old, first discovered a love for Mexican food. During our first visit here, I remember her asking our server for "Mexican Food" when asked what she would like to order. When pressed for what kind of Mexican food she would like, she got quite agitated, asking for "Mexican Food" again. We ordered for her that time. This time, there was no such confusion. My daughter confidently asked for a black bean and cheese burrito as we sat out on their front terrace, watching the world drift by. Fred's combination plates are a good way to sample a range of different Mexican items, and they have draft Dos Equis Ambar, which is always a good thing. The food is delicious and ideal for the budget-conscious.

That marked the last day of our stay at The Dana Hotel on Mission Bay. On Sunday, the sixth day of our vacation, we had to move hotels. First, we went to SeaWorld again, this time for a behind-the-scenes tour. We visited areas not usually seen by the public, including the medical facility and places where they rehabilitate sick, injured and orphaned animals. We saw pregnant dolphins, kept in quiet areas away from the public, and we saw birds such as flamingos and parrots, which have jobs as "animal ambassadors" for SeaWorld.

We went straight from SeaWorld to the Sheraton Hotel & Marina, where my wife's conference was being held. It is a lovely hotel, with luxurious rooms, and our room came with a balcony overlooking the marina. However, it is also on an artificial island (built on the by-product of dredging the shipping channel around the San Diego Coast), which means they have a captive audience for their overpriced restaurants and bars. Guests either pay inflated prices, or pay for a taxi to take them to a more reasonably priced location. While the bar offered a good selection of local brews on tap (I greatly enjoyed Stone Pale Ale), I was paying nearly twice as much for the pleasure than I was at our previous hotel.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

An Englishman in San Diego - Ocean, Mountains, Desert...and Dessert

Our fourth day at San Diego was spent exploring many different terrains. An early start took us out to Point Loma, the home of the Cabrillo National Monument, Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery and various naval installations. We were there to explore the renowned tidepools. Hitting this place at around low tide (in our case, a little after 10am) revealed a rocky landscape, full of little pools, containing an abundance of small sea-life, such as crabs (including hermit crabs), limpets, barnacles, mussels and abalones. If you ever come here, bring waterproof shoes with a good grip. It is slippery!

California has many State parks. Two adjoining ones, Cuyamaca Rancho and Anza Borrego, were next on our itinerary. Cuyamaca Rancho is very mountainous. When we went, we did not see much evidence of wildlife, but mountain lions (pumas) have attacked hikers and bicyclists on trails in the area.

Right next door to Cuyamaco Rancho is Anza Borrego National Park, and even without the signs, it is easy to spot where it begins. The terrain becomes more sparse with flat plains among the mountains and various cacti dotted around. It is a desert, but at this time of year, and after plenty of rain, the area looks more green and lush.

I was talking on-line a while back to a work-colleague of mine, who used to live in San Diego, and asked her about places I might visit with my family. After I told her that we were considering visiting Cuyamaca Rancho and Anza Borrego on one of our days here, she recommended that we stop for lunch at Julian, a small town in the area. She said that we must try the apple pie there. On our way, we stopped at a small antique market just outside of Julian, and after we had looked around for a while, the proprietor struck up a bit of a conversation with us. We mentioned to her that a friend recommended that we try apple pie in Julian, and we asked her where she would recommend trying it. She recommended The Julian Pie Company.

Julian is a small town, with lots of little shops along the main street, many of them catering to tourists. You can take a horse-drawn carriage drive up and down the street. In addition, of course, there is pie! The place has a nickname of "Pie Town." Although we did not try pie anywhere else, The Julian Pie Company must be at least one of the best places to sample this quintessential American food. Unlike many other places designed to accommodate tourists, this place offers great food at great value. We had a sandwich, potato chips, drink and a honking big slice of delicious pie for just under $8 each and sat out on the front deck watching the world go by. This family-owned and run business even grows their own apples!

Before setting out on our vacation, my Wife had discovered that an old friend had moved with her family to San Diego. Up until early evening, we had planned to visit them for dinner after our day out. Unfortunately, we felt the effects of the swine flu panic again. There was a confirmed case at the school one of their daughters attended and it was immediately closed. The school advised that contact with others should be limited until after the incubation period had passed, so we had to call off our dinner plans and eat alone.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

An Englishman in San Diego - Whales, Seals, Sea Lions and Fish & Chips

We spent our first full day in San Diego at SeaWorld. While the thought of animals in captivity, performing whales, dolphins, sea lions, etc., may put some people off, it is undoubtedly a lot of fun for the little ones, not to mention educational. We went when we were in San Diego two years ago, and while it is still fresh in the minds of my Wife and me, our daughter, who was two at the time, had completely forgotten about that first trip.

We thoroughly recommend Breakfast With Shamu, a very good poolside buffet breakfast. Poolside, referring to one of the smaller killer whale pools. One or two of the whale trainers put one of their whales through its paces right next to you as you eat. Shamu is a collective and trademarked name for any of the performing killer whales (orcas) at all of SeaWorld's various locations. We were introduced, as we were last time when we were here, to the 45-year-old and very gentle female named Corky. I actually prefer the Breakfast with Shamu experience to the big whale show they put on at SeaWorld, but there is no doubt that Believe, featuring many of the whales here, is quite a spectacle. If you are with an enthusiastic four-year-old, prepare to have to sit in the "Soak Zone," anywhere in the first 20 rows or so around Shamu Stadium. In addition to getting wet when the whales jump, one of the tricks they do is to splash the audience with their tails.

The next day, we went on a two-hour cruise along the San Diego coastline. Arriving at the harbor area, we were surprised to see several huge cruise ships in dock, many tourists milling around, and TV news crews interviewing people. We are, of course, in the middle of a panic about swine flu, and San Diego is in very close proximity to Mexico, its current epicenter. Two cruise ships were originally scheduled to go to Mexico, but the swine flu scare had caused them to divert to San Diego, resulting in many more people than usual in the vicinity.

San Diego is known for its connection with the US Navy, and our more modest cruise took us first under the Coronado Bridge, showing us many of the Navy ships stationed here. When we turned around and headed in the opposite direction, we saw more naval activity, including Navy SEALs in a training exercise jumping out of helicopters into the water, and dolphins being trained for special operations out of small boats. We also saw many wild California sea lions. Upon our return to the harbor, and in the interests of research for my readers, we ate some very good fish and chips at Anthony's Fish Grotto (in the quick-serve "Fishette" section, where you can sit out by the water).

As some of you may know, I work for a company that offers on-line education. The company is based in Temecula, California, not that far from San Diego. For the first time in the ten years that I have worked for them, I managed to meet in person, one of my work colleagues. Ending the day, my colleague joined us with her husband for a pizza dinner at Escondido, a city about halfway between San Diego and Temecula.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

An Englishman in San Diego - Football and Beer

The family and I are currently vacationing in San Diego, California. My Wife was due to attend a conference here, so we decided to extend the trip and make a vacation (or a holiday, for the benefit of my British friends) of it.

One thing that may surprise some is how long it takes to get from one side of the USA to the other. We live on the East coast (New Jersey), and San Diego is on the West coast in California. It takes almost as long to fly from Newark Airport, New Jersey to San Diego, California (about 6 hours) as it takes to fly from New Jersey to London (about 7 hours).

There is also a three hour time difference, so while we arrived at our hotel at about 6pm local time, it felt like 9pm to us, so we were feeling pretty tired and hungry. The first thing we did was head for the hotel’s bar and grill, known as The Firefly.

I have written before about some of the responses I get when people hear my English accent. I got a rare one at The Firefly. The greeter, a small Mexican man, sat us at our table and after a bit of small talk while he was making us comfortable, turned to me and asked if I liked football. I had assumed he was talking about American football (which I generally refer to as “rugby for wimps” due to the wearing of all that body-armor), and thought he was going to offer to change the channel on the television to some big game. However, he had noticed my English accent, and was asking me whether I followed what they generally refer to here as soccer. I hated to disappoint the poor chap who, it turned out, was a big Manchester United supporter, but I have never really cared much for that game either. I figured that he probably did not get many opportunities to talk about British soccer with a real live Brit, so I tried my best to fake it a little. He seemed satisfied when I told him my home team was Luton Town, a team that once was moderately successful, but who I believe have not done that well in the years I have been in the US.

If this Englishman knows embarrassingly little about football, I do know a good pint when I taste it, and I was not disappointed with the selection of beers on tap. The Firefly prides itself on offering a good range of beers from local microbreweries, small independent companies handcrafting their own brews. If you are ever out here, I thoroughly recommend Red Trolley Ale, a red ale that I would describe as “hoppy and hearty.”

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bathroom Basics

Photo courtesy of geniusJonesYour comments on my recent post Chips and Other Confusing Words started me thinking that there was probably more to say on the subject of bathrooms.

Just the word itself is a subject of cross-cultural confusion and discomfort. To a Brit, a bathroom is the place where you have a bath. It took me a long time in the US to get comfortable with asking where the bathroom was when I needed to relieve myself. Conversely, my Wife was quite shocked when in England to hear people ask where the toilet was. In polite company, she might hear a British lady talking about going to powder one's nose, but she might also hear someone announce that she was going to spend a penny. The origin of the previous phrase, incidentally, comes from a time when to enter a stall in a public convenience one would need to insert a penny in a slot in the door.

British slang words for the toilet also include loo (a discussion of possible origins of that word can be found here), khazi (it's likely the origins of this word come from the Italian casa, meaning house), bog, lav (short for lavatory, another common term) and WC, short for Water Closet. British friends visiting America may hear slang words such as head (this is thought to be due to the location of the crew toilet in the bow or head of a ship) or john.

I cannot let this talk about bathrooms go without a little explanation about plumbing, for the benefit of any transatlantic travelers out there. When I first encountered an American toilet, I found it somewhat scary! I thought it was blocked and about to overflow. I have since learned that American toilets have a higher water level than the toilets I was brought up using. Conversely, American travelers to Britain should be aware that yes, British toilets are meant to have a low water level. The water has not drained away. This difference means that British men using flush toilets (as opposed to urinals) in America are forced to subject anyone within earshot to what I refer to as "The Niagara Falls Effect," whereas in Britain, some careful aiming results in a discreet, almost noise-free performance.

On the subject of urinals (sorry Ladies), in the restrooms (I am certainly not going there to rest!) of pubs and other public places in Britain, you will often find a communal along-the-wall urinal, rather than the individual units that are more common in the US.

Then, of course, there is the infamous British love of toilet-humor. More on that later, I think. I need to go wash my hands.

I am a little cautious about opening this one up for public comments and discussion, but please do let us know your thoughts on this subject.

Friday, April 24, 2009

British Y-Front Sales Boosted by Recession

How timely! After talking about pants/underwear/underpants/trousers in my last blog post, the latest news from the BBC is that sales of Y-fronts have increased by 35%, according to British store Debenhams. In fact, sales of Y-fronts have overtaken sales of boxer shorts for the first time since early 1990, interestingly, the last time Britain was in a recession. A spokesman from Debenhams said,"They provide a much greater sense of security than loose-fitting boxers, and perhaps, in these troubled times, that's what men need to feel."

And with that brief (hah!) newsflash, which will no doubt thrill my friend Sheila, who for some reason is fascinated by Y-fronts, I wish you a great weekend!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chips and Other Confusing Words

During the discussion that followed my recent interview on Cindy's Country Corner, Cindy asked me, "Graham, I have heard that most Brits love their fish and chips! And, you obviously do! So, here’s my question. Are the chips more like french fries, home fries, potato chips or none of the above?"

I thought most American people knew what British "chips" were, but it is not the first time I have been asked this question, so I thought I would clarify this. British chips are American french fries (I hope we have got past the embarrassing term "freedom fries" now), but unlike most fries, which are usually quite thin, British chips are generally fatter.

What Americans call potato chips, Brits call crisps.

For the benefit of my non-American friends, home fries are par-cooked potatoes, diced or otherwise cut into chunks, then shallow-fried.

There are so many of these little differences, I think an entire series is warranted. Let us go on for a while:

What we Brits call pants, Americans call underwear. In Britain, the word underwear is often used to describe any undergarments, such as underpants, bras, undershirts (US undershirts are UK vests, while a US vest is what a Brit would call a waistcoat). An American calls them pants, while a Brit calls them trousers. My four-year-old daughter always bursts into fits of giggling when I tell her about pants and trousers and so on.

While we are on the subject of anatomy and accessories, if you have not already checked it out, you might enjoy an earlier post here, Don't say 'fannypack' around me.

Finally (for now anyway), you might enjoy The Very Best of British - The American's Guide to Speaking British, a website which is full of these little differences and makes a very entertaining read.

Confused? Do you have some more differences or questions about language differences? Please post a comment and let me know.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Interview With an Englishman

In a recent post, I mentioned that I'd been interviewed for Cindy's Country Corner, a blog I often enjoy reading. Cindy has now posted the interview on her blog. She's a former newspaper editor, and her experience shows, since she managed to ask me a great set of questions that prompted me to share quite a bit.

Read the interview here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Susan Boyle Sings "Cry Me A River"

Just a quickie today, as an update to yesterday's piece on Susan Boyle. Scottish newspaper The Daily Record claims to have an exclusive; they've found a 1999 charity CD featuring Susan Boyle singing the standard Cry Me A River. It's a wonderful performance too. It does suggest that Ms. Boyle has some range to her vocal talents.

The article goes on to talk about interviews she has done for US TV shows, and suggests she's been lined up as a guest on the Oprah Winfrey show:

"BGT supremo Simon Cowell reckons that if the appearance goes ahead, it will guarantee that her debut album will top the charts in the States."

As usual, I'd love to know what you think - please post a comment.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Susan Boyle - Scottish Singing Sensation Shows 'Em!

Last Saturday, on British TV talent show Britain's Got Talent, an unassuming 47-year-old-woman with a frumpy figure, unruly hair, bushy eyebrows and wearing a fairly unattractive dress, was laughed at as she strutted out on stage for an audition. As she answered the judges' questions before her performance (with some degree of sassiness, I might add), they pulled faces, the audience giggled and muttered and hosts Ant and Dec mugged from the wings. Before she had finished her first line (she was singing I Dreamed A Dream from Les Misérables), everyone had stopped laughing, and many were gasping, cheering and clapping. If you have not seen it yourself already, please check out the YouTube video (I don't do this usually with links, but if you select this link, it'll open the video in a new window, so you can keep on reading).

If you are anything like me, you may have had shivers running up your spine when Ms. Boyle started singing. At the time of writing this, close to 14 Million people have watched the above YouTube clip. From surprising a panel of cocky judges on a talent show, that unassuming 47-year-old woman from a small town in Scotland has progressed to wowing the World. Apparently, she is already in talks with Judge Simon Cowell's Sony BMG record label. Even celebrity couple Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher got in on the act, when it was widely reported that the two had sent the following messages to each other on Twitter:

Kutcher: This just made my night.
Moore: You saw it made me teary.

So where has Susan Boyle been all these years? According to the Daily Mirror, she was bullied as a child, due to her fuzzy hair, and a learning difficulty caused by being starved of oxygen during birth. She found comfort in singing. After taking part in choirs and concerts while at school, she graduated to playing clubs and pubs. She is well-known locally for singing karaoke. A spell at Edinburgh Acting School in the 90's was cut short when she had to look after her sick Mother (her Father died ten years ago). It was her Mother who wanted Susan to enter Britain's Got Talent. Ms. Boyle has eight older siblings, and still lives in the same house as she grew up in, with a ten year old cat named Pebbles. Although things are likely to change very soon, she was unemployed and volunteered for her church. She claims never to have been kissed.

I think that what has captured the world's imagination is not just her voice, which is fantastic, but the fact that it comes from such an unlikely source. Mark Smith, in Scottish Newspaper The Herald says that people like Susan "stand out because everyone on television now has the same face, the same hair and the same teeth. Someone on the programme might make this point one day, but it's unlikely anyone would hear them over the tearjerking violin music being played over slow-motion clips of Susan smiling."

I think the danger is that some "image expert" will try to change Ms. Boyle, and that will spoil the magic. To a degree this process may already be starting. Apparently, judge Piers Morgan ordered a film crew to film in a neighboring town rather than Boyle's hometown Blackburn, which Morgan branded "a dump," according to newspaper The Scotsman.

I would love to hear your thoughts on Susan Boyle, her amazing performance, and her future. Please do post a comment.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What a Load Of...Colin?

It was reported last week that UK Supermarket chain Sainsbury's announced that they were going to rename the white fish pollack with a French name, "colin." Apparently, they believed that flagging sales were due to Brits being embarrassed to ask for pollack, because of its similarity to the British word "Bollocks," which is slang for testicles. I don't buy that explanation, especially when the renaming comes (in some stores) with special packaging designed by Wayne Hemingway, but clearly inspired by artist Jackson Pollock.

Yes, I said packaging. Sainsbury's sells pollack prepackaged. So it's not as if customers have to ask out loud for the fish in stores. I think this is all an attempt to use the media for a bit of free publicity.

Because of its mild flavor, pollack, caught in British waters, is a good substitute for cod, whose numbers have fallen dramatically in recent years. It is a more popular fish in France than in the UK. It is also cheaper than cod.

To add a further level of complexity to this tale, the French word "colin" actually means "hake," rather than pollack. The French for pollack is actually "lieu jaune," which could unfortunately be pronounced "loo john." In addition, "colin" is actually pronounced "coh-lan," so as columnist Marcel Berlins rightly points out in the Guardian, "the supermarket took a decision to deal with a nonsensical problem by using a difficult-to-pronounce foreign word that is wrongly translated from the English."

My interest in all this? My Father's name is Colin!

Real problem or just a marketing ploy? Please post a comment and let me know what you think.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Graham Makes Some Excuses - and a Guest Post

You may have noticed that I haven't posted to my blog for at least a week. I've been busy on some side projects. First, Cindy from Cindy's Country Corner interviewed me for a forthcoming entry on her blog. I've also been working on the design of a new blog/website. Lastly, Vicki, who writes one of my favorite blogs, The Divamom Life Love Shopping and Food Blog, invited me to write a guest post, based on a little comedy of errors I experienced this Easter weekend. You can read all about it in her blog post: Eggy Errors (by Graham Gudgin). It's my very first guest post, so I was really excited about that. Go check it out, and while you're there, take a look at some of her earlier posts.

Normal service will be resumed this week!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Michelle O - Behind Every Successful Man...

From Our London Correspondent:

Michelle Obama has come across as the real heroine of the G20 summit. She has come across so well to us over here. The British TV media has lavished HUGE praise on her and the students at this largely ethnic school, treated her like a film star, screaming upon her appearance. She was clearly very emotional about their welcome for her.
This bodes very well.

I received this e-mail from my brother who was excited (He entitled his e-mail "Michelle, OUR Belle") about media coverage of Michelle Obama's visit to a school in London. I've included the video from the BBC here. She did get a remarkable reception, and it is quite amusing watching the security people appear to be wondering what to do if the First Lady gets pulled into the crowd.

The Obamas were in London so President Barack Obama could attend the G20 Economic Summit. Recently, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited the US. Much of the media reported Brown as being snubbed by Barack Obama during that trip. There were stories, for example, of a bust of Winston Churchill, given to President Bush by previous PM Tony Blair after 9/11, being returned to Britain. Unfortunately, a gift to Gordon Brown of 20 DVDs of American movies was unplayable in the UK, because of differences in the format.

During this visit, The President seemed to be going out of his way to make up with Britain. The technology-loving President did better with gifts this time. He presented The Queen with an engraved iPod containing recordings of famous American show-tunes. This was to accompany a gift of a a rare songbook signed by American composer Richard Rogers. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the iPod also contained "photos of her White House visit; photos and video of her stop in Richmond, Va.; video of her 2007 and 1957 trips to Jamestown, Va.; photos of the president’s January inauguration, as well as mp3s of Obama’s inaugural address and his 2004 speech to the Democratic National Convention." In return, The Queen gave The President the traditional gift of a silver-framed photograph of the Queen and Prince Phillip.

Again, Michelle Obama clearly went down well with the British Monarch. The Queen even went so far as putting her arm around Mrs. Obama, after the two joked about their significant height difference.

Did you follow the G20 Summit or the Obama's visit to Britain? Please let us know your thoughts.