May 022011

I woke up on Friday morning just in time to see Prince William and Kate Middleton emerge on to the balcony of Buckingham Palace and the couple kiss.

I didn’t get chance to see any of the earlier coverage until Friday evening. My wife and I were on the road most of the day heading to Charlotte, North Carolina, to visit with her brother. Actually, her brother lives in Rock Hill, South Carolina but who has heard of that.

BBC America showed highlights of the Royal Wedding. I particularly wanted to see, and hear, the hymn Jerusalem being sung during the service at Westminster Abbey. My patience was not rewarded. The highlights reached the point where the couple left the church and there had been no hide nor hair of Jerusalem.

Fortunately, Channel 113 was showing a re-run of the wedding in its entirety. Sure enough, the strains of Jerusalem rang through Westminster Abbey followed by a fanfare by members of the Royal Air Force Band and the singing of God Save The Queen.

Jerusalem is a firm favourite of mine. The words by William Blake set to a stirring tune by Hubert Parry embody England and all that it stands for. As an expat, it sends a shiver down my spine and brings a lump to my throat.

BBC America saw fit to exclude both those items from its highlights. And I think we know the reason why. The BBC may well be the British Broadcasting Corporation but anything that smacks of patriotism, flying the flag or Britain’s proud heritage is a no-no these days, unless it serves to denigrate Britain.

I would imagine many in the BBC positively winced at the prospect of having to cover the Royal Wedding, especially in view of the last two Labour Prime Ministers not being invited. It was possibly the prospect of being lynched by an angry and outraged license-paying public that made the powers that be in the organization concede to showing the event.

And I guess the programme controllers thought they could get away with omitting Jerusalem and God Save The Queen from the highlights for viewers in America. Wrong!

Jan 312011

It was George Bernard Shaw who said that England and America were two countries separated by a common language. In the 10 years that I have lived in the United States, I have managed to get along pretty well without commiting any major linguistic faux pas. Occasionally, I do have to repeat myself but that is more down to my accent rather than the language I am speaking.

At times, I do miss the sound of English regional accents and to get my fix of words spoken in my native tongue, I tune into BBC America. And if an English film/movie is playing on Turner Movie Classics, you can be assured I will watch it from start to finish. A week ago, I thoroughly enjoyed This Sporting Life, directed by Lindsay Anderson and starring Richard Harris and Rachel Roberts.

Today I got to hear English accents live. Two dear friends — Charles and Caroline whom I have known since we were at the University of Manchester more than 30 years ago — are staying in St Augustine, Florida, for a week’s vacation. My wife, Margaret, and I met up with them at their hotel, Casa Monica, and enjoyed their company for several hours.

Just hearing English accents, and covering topics of conversation that I am intimately connected to and knowledgeable of, was sheer joy. Naturally, we reminisced a little bit and at some point mention was made of the Plaza restaurant on Plymouth Grove, or was it Anson Road, Manchester, which was famous for its “chicken” biryani served with a curry sauce that could range from fiery to lethal.

I have put chicken inside quote marks because the apocryphal tale had it that the chicken was in fact alsation dog, or German Shepherd as the Americans would say. And that kind of brings me back where I came in with the George Bernard Shaw quote.