I’ll just answer some of Dave’s questions.

I’ve stopped reading Scott’s blog. It was just too unhealthy for me to read. Doubt he reads this so no biggie saying it. Actually, he told me that Sandy doesn’t read it either, so doubt he much cares if I do or not.

Re: American pop culture. I’ve been browsing British TV just to get a sense of what’s on and it’s fascinating. I already wrote how one day I was searching for sports to watch and there was only soccer, cricket or F1 racing on. They show rugby also. I’m interested in none of those things. Not sure what I’m going to do.

Anyway, there are channels that broadcast U.S. shows and the selection is peculiar. Like, one channel seems to broadcast 4 episodes of Family Guy a night. The Real Housewives of New York is on. You mentioned Fresh Prince – it’s still being broadcast! I saw a time block with a bunch of relatively current U.S. shows, and Fresh Prince in the middle of it. So bizarre. So what parts of U.S. culture do they resonate with here? I can’t figure it out. Trash for sure. In addition to Real Housewives, the current season of Celebrity Big Brother has The Situation on it. Apparently, Jersey Show peeps are popular enough that average Brits know them. People around the office were super excited about The Newsroom, or HBO shows in general. I bet they’re the equivalent of the Downton Abbey watchers in the U.S.

Re: race – so one thing I tried to figure out was, you know in the U.S, the food industry is pretty much driven by Latinos. I think Bourdain said if you’re going to open a restaurant you need to know at least a little Spanish out of respect, because cooks are all Latino. I was trying to figure out what the equivalent is here, if there’s an ethnicity that does all the “menial” stuff that drives the economy. I can’t see any pattern. Indians/Pakistani and Arabs are definitely well-represented in food service. But it’s not like the U.S, especially since those ethnicities also populate many of the super-rich as well. So I don’t know if there’s the same sense of racial lines also defining class lines.

One thing that has struck me is there are far more blacks in London than in the Bay Area. (I’m using blacks because I have no idea what’s proper here. It’s obviously not African-American, but I don’t know what it is.) I’ve already mentioned there are far more of virtually every ethnicity in London (except Oriental). But yeah, lots of blacks. I’m not used to it, so it’s kind of surprised me. I had a meeting with my bank today, and this particular branch was entirely staffed by blacks. I’d never see that in the Bay Area, so different. And cool. The churches we’ve visited also have been very diverse, even just looking at skin color. For whatever reason, churches don’t seem to divide along racial lines in the same way they do in the U.S.

But because there are so many ethnicities all mixed up, the racial mix feels different (so far. 3 weeks, what do I know). This is an overgeneralization, but in the U.S, in most places the racial mix is usually between 2 or 3 groups, the rest comprising a small minority in the area. That main mix of 2 or 3 defines the racial feel and atmosphere. Like, in most of California it’s White-Hispanic-Asian. In Texas it’s White-African American-Hispanic. In London, there’s no feeling of that because there are too many large minority groups. So it’s weird not having this dominant racial story narrative.

Another random observation – the playgrounds here feel less safe than in the U.S. It’s not as crazy as in Korea, where some of the playgrounds literally frightened me (like one in an apartment complex we stayed at that was essentially built with its base 5 feet off the ground), and it’s not like they’re deathtraps, but I just a vague sense that they’re a little less safe. For example, ziplines are pretty common (“common” meaning I’ve seen it more than once). You’ll never see that in the U.S. Too much danger of liability, I think. And indeed, Joshua’s fallen a couple times. On the flip side, we haven’t seen a single set of monkey bars here, which has made Abby sad as she learned to navigate them just before we left the States.

I had read somewhere that British kids are more polite. Not true in my experience. We went to the Princess Diana Memorial Playgrounds and it was insane. Think Lord Of The Flies. We went on a long weekend so it was packed (they had to limit access, only allowing 20 people in at a time after 20 other people have left) and seriously crazy, kids throwing sand at each other, climbing on top of each other – every child for themselves. I think our kids were a little shaken at first, before they got used to it.

One last observation – they have all these varieties of bacon here. In the states, it’s smoked / unsmoked, thick-cut / thin. They have that here also, but also different cuts of bacon varying so wildly that some don’t look like American bacon at all. They’re also called “rashers”. In general, there’s far more variety in the meats they sell (including various organs).

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