As an airman in the U.S. Air Force, my government shipped a lot of the comforts of home to us, and I was grateful for them, but there were things that a young woman in the 90s living in East Anglia just could not obtain. Remember, this was before the World Wide Web had anything of real use, so I could not just access the American comic pages or YouTube videos, kids. As much as I loved my four years in England, every so often, I would pine for what I couldn’t have, and that is natural for anyone living in a foreign land. I put together a small list of things that I missed at the time. I am also wondering just how much things have changed since then, so if my U.K. readers would update me, it would be most appreciated. Ta very much.
1. Turkey year round – A roast turkey was available at Christmas in the U.K. shops, and I could not wrap my head around this concept. Turkey is good anytime! Believe me, I was not the only American who felt this way. Even on base, we did not have access to the roasting birds and had to make do with the compressed, synthetic turkey loaves in the chow hall every so often. When the big shipment of turkeys came in from the States at Thanksgiving, you would have thought we were on the receiving end of the Berlin Air Lift.
2. Snow – I was told what the U.K. had from December to March was winter, but I had a hard time reconciling it to my experience in Pennsylvania. It just felt like a slightly chillier form of the dampness and rain that was there during the autumn. I will say, that was when I learned how nice it was to warm up with a proper cup of tea after coming inside. (I know. There I go banging on about tea again. I won’t mention it anymore in this post. I swear.)
3. Shopping Convenience – This was the time before anything late night or 24-hours was open, so, if I had to work late, I had to do the mad rush to get home, get changed out of my uniform, and then go to Tesco, one of the national supermarket chains, before it closed. (The locals did not mind the American troops being there as long as we weren’t conspicuous. They could pretend we were tourists, if we were in our civvies.) And if you didn’t make it, you would have to resort to the local petrol station. I’ll let Eddie Izzard explain that one.
Even better were the shops along the High Street in Newmarket closing around 5:00 (with half-day trading on Wednesdays) before I normally got home, so I did not even have a chance to pick up anything else after work. My only chance to shop in town was if I had a day off on Saturday, and then I had to contend with the rest of the crowds. That was usually the day Mildred decided to have a 15-minute whinge about her daughter-in-law at the butcher’s whilst holding up the queue. When she was done, she would add insult to injury by calling out as she left, “See you tonight, dear!”
4. Open roads – Sometimes I just wanted to drive long distances and not worry about roundabouts, stops, starts, weird junctions, twist, turns, and massive amounts of road works. Once in a blue moon, a long, smooth drive by myself with some good music settles my brain, and it was frustrating when I wanted it and didn’t have that option.
5. Pro baseball games live on TV or in person – Yeah, we had the Armed Forces Network, but I was stuck with taped delayed games of teams I didn’t care about, i.e. the Yankees or Dodgers. Cricket is lovely in its own right, but I wanted peanuts, soda, home runs, and a game that I didn’t need a higher level math degree to score. I also didn’t want anyone telling me baseball was merely a glorified game of rounders. It isn’t, and it only makes you an arrogant twat to even argue that point.
6. Amusement parks – OK, Alton Towers wasn’t bad, but I was used to places where I could go and hang by a piece of dental floss 100 feet in the air, gorge myself on funnel cake, and call it fun. You get your thrills your way. I get them mine.
7. Diners and Cafés – It was the 1990s, and I know it is unfair to compare American breakfast to Little Chef and Happy Eater, but come on. And one lovely dish that is the traditional English Breakfast with the eggs, sausage, bacon, pudding, beans, tomato, and fried bread does not make up for the variety that you can get over here. Edited to add: The variety of breakfast offerings have improved greatly in London, but what we have on offer as a nation wins hands down.
Being that we are going blueberry picking in Michigan today, and I have a Boffin who keeps interrupting me in the car, I can only give you just a mere sample of what I missed. Feel free to share your stories of little things you wanted from home.