Monthly Archives: January 2009

Prince Harry & Chelsy Davy: It’s over

It looks like my guess that there’d be no royal wedding for Prince Harry this year was spot on. The British newspapers are reporting that Chelsy Davy dumped Prince Harry last week — and this time, it may be for good. I first read this in the Daily Mail, but the Telegraph and the BBC, among other news outlets, are spreading the report.

Who Jane Austen read

Canada’s Globe and Mail from last Friday showcases four female authors who influenced novelist Jane Austen’s work. The article’s author, Susan Catto, who has a doctorate in 18th century literature from Oxford, suggests that the work of authors Eliza Haywood, Charlotte Lennox, Ann Radcliffe, and Frances Burney may be successors to the waning Austen mania in popular culture.

In the next couple months, I’ll be writing about one of my favorite Austen-type authors, Georgette Heyer, who wrote prolifically (and wittily) throughout the 20th century about Regency England in her romantic novels. Stay tuned.

Make John Galliano’s pirate jacket

If you’re at all handy with a sewing machine, here’s a pattern for John Galliano’s “pirate jacket” you can download at SHOWstudio. I love how they sewed this up with the Union Jack flag and colors — very Brit!

It looks like a bear to put together, and you really have to have the right body type to wear this, but wow, what a unique piece of wearable art to proclaim one’s Anglophilia.

Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy fetches £12,000 at auction

Colin Firth as Mr Darcy Portrait

The BBC reports today that a very lucky someone purchased the prop portrait of Fitzwilliam Darcy used in the BBC’s production of Pride and Prejudice for a mere £12,000 (roughly $16,500) at auction. The portrait appeared near the end of the film, and could be seen when Elizabeth Bennett’s character toured Mr. Darcy’s Pemberley estate with her aunt and uncle. It’s right before Mr. Darcy jumps in the pond.  You remember that scene, ladies?

The prop portrait sold for double what the auction house expected to receive. Proceeds from the sale are going to charity.

US vs. UK on BBC Radio Scotland

Mike Harling (an American in Britain, and author of Postcards From Across The Pond, which I happened to blurb) and Toni Hargis (a Briton in America, and author of Rules, Britannia: An Insider’s Guide to Life in the United Kingdom) squared off yesterday on which country is better — the US or the UK —  on BBC Radio Scotland. The interview starts about 1 hour and 12 minutes into the broadcast — you can move the pointer to that spot.

Toni wrote on her blog that she didn’t say Americans had zero sense of humor as the host claimed (Toni, I loved your Labrador puppy line!). And I think Mike is turning into a Brit because he never interrupted and he wasn’t all rah-rah-America, but calmly and humorously defended his homeland. Who won? Well, poor Mike was outnumbered and being an American myself … come on, of course America rules! Do we really have to debate this?

I liked the discussion about the difference between US and UK humor. Hargis said she dumped her sarcastic sense of humor years ago because Americans don’t get it — we take everything literally. Hmm. To some degree this is true, especially if you’re kidding around with a Midwesterner or Southerner. But in the Northeast — places like the outer boroughs of NYC, south Boston, or northern New England — sarcasm, irony, and black humor are the gold standards for humor. Indeed, Mike — from upstate New York — gave Britons a little taste of this with his comment about guns being the efficacious way to kill someone, versus stomping on them or lighting them afire as they typically do in the gun-wary UK. And I had to tone down my ironic commentary when I married my husband, an earnest corn-fed boy from Michigan who, along with his family, takes everything at face value.

Nevertheless, I give the British the edge on their collective sense of humor, as well as their conversational skills. And it’s not just because I love the way they sound, I swear.

Anyway, it’s a fun listen and both Toni and Mike spoke their sides very well.

Did civility doom Britons on the Titanic?

According to research conducted by the Univerisity of Zurich, American passengers on the doomed Titanic were 15 percent more likely to survive the sinking than were British passengers. Beyond nationality, the study looks at survivability statistics according to class, age, and sex.

In an article in the Daily Mail, the lead researcher Bruno S. Frey surmises, “The British were much more aware of the social norms at the time. They would have been more likely to stand in a queue and wait their turn for boarding the lifeboats than Americans.” That is, Americans were probably pushing and shoving to the front of the line.

Reading this makes me reconsider ever saying to my kid, “Would it kill you to wait your turn?”

Download an abstract of the study here. Interesting stuff.

Can you pass the British Citizen Test?

GMTV has posted an unofficial British Citizen Test on its website. Seems like this test would have been popular with Americans eight years ago, but whatever … it tests you on British culture, history and society.

My score? “PASS! You may as well move right in to Buckingham Palace! You’ve obviously been brushing up on your Great British facts and pastimes.”

Um, no thanks on the Buckingham Palace offer — it looks a little dreary to me. But I’ll take one of those places on Cheyne Walk or a cottage in Devon, especially if it comes with a vintage Aga stove.

Toby Young on Top Chef

First off, when I read Toby Young’s memoir about his stint at Vanity Fair, I think I laughed so hard a few times I knocked one of my cats off the bed. And I was thrilled to hear this British food critic was going to judge this season on one of my favorite shows, Top Chef. But I was severely disappointed with him last week — he just wasn’t that funny and his condemnations of the cheftestants’ dishes were too overwrought.

Luckily he redeemed himself this week. He still went for some truly awful similes but I loved it when he said when he gets served a pork product, he wants to make love to it. (Or something like that.) It was very funny.

Anyway, an interview with Mr. Toby Young on the LA Times‘ Show Tracker blog for your reading pleasure.

Princess Margaret in Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair has an excerpt of Anne de Courcy’s biography of Antony Armstrong-Jones, Snowdon, in its February 2009 issue:

Britain thrilled to the 1960 wedding of Queen Elizabeth’s glamorous younger sister, Princess Margaret, and debonair photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones (soon to become Earl of Snowdon), the first commoner in four centuries to marry a king’s daughter. But while it seemed the 29-year-old Margaret had finally recovered from her heartbreak over Captain Peter Townsend, many close to the newlyweds saw trouble ahead.”

Read more here.