Sunday, July 5, 2009

Stephan Fry on America: Just Add Sugar

After completing a trip to all 50 of these United States, actor, thinker, cultural attache', and now Kentucky colonel, Stephen Fry gave a lovely little lecture on the differences between Great Britain and America and why he loves the States.

Read the speech in full here

I had American family too. Those from my mother’s side who survived the horrors of the holocaust went to Israel or America or both. All that is, except for my mother’s parents who chose to make their home here in England. American relations would descend into our drab early 60s British world of grey weather, grey trousers and grey attitudes dripping colourful slacks, pants and jackets, sparkling jewels, thrilling cameras, perfumed furs and expensive tchotchkes of all kinds. They brought these treasures to us in Pan-Am or TWA overnight bags or ‘grips’ that also contained thrilling trophies of their jet travel: miniature salt cellars and pepper pots, paper napkins bearing the airline’s crest and foil sachets that held moist lemon-scented cleansing squares, or ‘handy freshen-up wipettes’ of unimaginably exotic strangeness and wonder. Over these precious souvenirs my brother and I would fight like wild beasts. Back home in the states, as my Yankee cousins made clear by their astonishment at our conspicuous lack of them, they had ice machines, air conditioning, stereo sets and colour televisions. Damn it, in Britain even our TV was grey. In my eyes my American cousins were little short of gods: their basketball sneakers shamed my plimsolls, their t-shirts laughed at my short-sleeved air-tex and their Levi jeans made a blushing disgrace of my bagged corduroys. The details of suburban American living I think excited me more than the mythology of the West or of Chicago’s South Side or of the surfers of Santa Monica. I liked trying to understand what bake-offs, yard sales, drive-in movies and spelling bees were, what sophomores and semesters might be and what homecoming queens and commencement and proms and Spring Break and Elks and Shriners and pledge rings and trick or treat could possibly portend.

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY! (even though I'm one day late)