I cannot help loving Kate Spade’s book clutches. See how she transforms “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens into a stylish clutch, with an interior zip pocket and room for 12 credit cards? It’s priced at $325 and is utterly perfection.
And if Charles Dickens isn’t your bag, check out “Emma” by Jane Austen. Same treatment in a pale pink clutch!
What happens when an American woman and her British husband decide to buy a 200-year-old cottage in the heart of the Cotswolds? It’s all in Jennifer Richardson’s travel memoir entitled “Americashire: A Field Guide to Marriage,” which received the 2013 Indie Reader Discovery Award for travel writing.
Richardson spent three years living in the Cotswalds, before moving back to the U.S. She and her husband currently live in Santa Monica, Calif. I caught up with her recently and talked about the expat life, taco salads and the joy of a good pub. Here’s what she had to say:
Q: What brought you to the U.K.?
A: My British husband and I had been living in Los Angeles, and he had a yen to move back to his homeland for a stint. I was reluctant but told him if he found a job that would move us, then I would go. I didn’t actually expect my condition to be fulfilled so fast, but within three months, we were in London. Of course, once we got there, I loved it.
Q: What prompted your move back to the States?
A: My grass-is-always-greener husband wanted to get back to America after six years of being away. In parallel, an opportunity came up through my job to move to Boston, so we took it. We loved Boston (our neighborhood, Beacon Hill, was about as British as you can get in the U.S.), but have now made our way back to Santa Monica. My aspiration is that we eventually spend part of the year here in California and part in our cottage in the Cotswolds.
Q: What do you miss most about British life?
A: The pub, by which I really mean a place where you can strike up a conversation with a stranger without getting a funny look.
Q: What do you love most about American life?
A: It’s easier to find a salad that isn’t iceberg lettuce with a pale quarter of tomato and, if you’re lucky, a slice of cucumber. I don’t think Cobb salads or Chinese chicken salads even exist in England. Taco salad would blow their minds. Which reminds me about two other great American institutions: Taco Bell and Target. When we lived in England, those were our first stops on any visit back to the states.
Q: Tell me about “Americashire.”
A: It’s a travel memoir, and here’s the pitch: When an American woman and her British husband decide to buy a two-hundred-year-old cottage in the heart of the Cotswolds, they’re hoping for an escape from their London lives. Instead, their decision about whether or not to have a child plays out against a backdrop of village fêtes, rural rambles, and a cast of eccentrics clad in corduroy and tweed.
Q: What inspired you to write the book?
A: The three years I spent living in the Cotswolds. As a former urbanite/suburbanite, I was utterly charmed, and occasionally mystified, by rural English life. I felt compelled to write it all down, which I initially did in a blog, An American in the Cotswolds. This is where the raw material came from for the travelogue part of the book. In real life there was also this decision about whether or not to have kids going on at the same time, and I thought the moment was right for that story. Something about it felt and still feels zeitgeist-y: child-free celebs from Oprah to Ellen are in the spotlight, and the subject even made a segment of CBS Sunday Morning this past Mother’s Day.
Q: What advice would you give to Anglo-American couples that are trying to make it work?
A: If you’re the American in the couple, learn to make fun of yourself, a.k.a. “take the piss out of yourself” in Brit-speak. That’s the true mark of character for the British, so it will make things easier not just at home, but at any pub in the U.K. If you’re the Brit in the couple, just try iced tea. It’s not the devil’s drink, I promise (despite what my husband says).
I realize that it’s one of those books that are almost instantly out of date from the moment they are published (better as a blog, perhaps), but in this case, it makes for a nice coffee book for $24.95. Great photos and good recommendations of places to eat, sleep and shop, broken down by neighborhood.
BTW, did you know that Anthropologie has a shop in London on Regent Street? We walked by it on our trip to London a couple of months ago (mental note: must post London photos from our trip next week!)
I was at Target this weekend and ran into a couple of old friends!
Yes! The Gruffalo and the Gruffalo’s Child on DVD, based on the books by Julia Donaldson! If you haven’t seen these, they’re definitely worth watching and keeping! They feature the voices of Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, John Hurt, James Cordon and Tom Wilkinson. I’d venture to say they are modern classics. Check them out – now on sale at Target for $7.50!
Have you ever wondered what it takes to dress Queen Elizabeth? Here are just a few details I discovered via this weekend’s very informative Wall Street Journal article:
1. The Queen prefers a two-inch heel.
2. Striking colors are a must.
3. Umbrellas are a necessity (she likes transparent ones the most).
4. She has quite a collection of hats.
More details like these can be found in the book, “Dressing the Queen: The Jubilee Wardrobe” written by royal couturier Angela Kelly, who manages the queen’s public and private wardrobe.
The Royal Mail has just unveiled their latest tribute to children’s author Roald Dahl in a “gloriumptiously collectable” set of stamps. See them all!
I’m also loving the other accoutrements they are offering – stamp books, stamp cards, framed stamps, pin badges … everything that a Roald Dahl fan would eat up with a fork and knife (and maybe a spoon)!
Thanks to A Cup of Jo for bringing this to my attention!
If travel is in the cards in 2012, check out Taschen’s 4 Cities, a box set of 12 volumes covering hotels, restaurants and shops in London, Paris, New York and Berlin.
In the meantime, have a wonderful New Year’s and I’ll see you back here on Tuesday!
With each passing year, my attention span wanes and my reading list gets more abbreviated. Thankfully next year is already being dubbed “The Year of the Short Story,” perhaps in response to those like me who are short on time and long on commitments.
Another piece of good news: We don’t have to wait until 2012 to jump feet first into the short fiction fray. Chris Power of the Guardian has compiled a list of the top short stories published this year and he contends that there were some fantastic short reads if you knew where to look. Check it out.
And for those of you who are too time poor to read the article, I feel your pain. Here’s the recommended list:
1. Alice by Judith Hermann (Clerkenwell Press)
2. All the Lights (And Other Stories) by Clemens Meyer
3. The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories by Don DeLillo (Picador)
4. The Beautiful Indifference by Sarah Hall (Faber and Faber)
5. Best European Fiction 2012 edited by Aleksandar Hemon (Dalkey Archive)
6. Best British Short Stories 2011 edited by Nicholas Royle (Salt)
7. The Granta Book of the African Short Story edited by Helon Habila (Granta)
8. It Was Just, Yesterday by Mirja Unge (Comma Press)
9. Long, Last, Happy: New and Selected Stories by Barry Hannah (Atlantic)
10. Saints and Sinners by Edna O’Brien (Faber and Faber)
11. Scenes from Village Life by Amos Oz (Chatto & Windus)
12. The Suitcase by Sergei Dovlatov (One World)
13. We Others: New and Selected Stories by Steven Millhauser (Corsair)
I’m always a little fascinated when American publishers take a perfectly good UK book and dumb it down for American audiences.
For example, the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was renamed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the US because the dumbledores at Scholastic didn’t think American kids would want to read a book with the word “philosopher” in the title. Sad.
Ditto with Thomas the Tank Engine which had to be renamed Thomas the Train in the US because heaven forbid, we make anything slightly complicated for American children. What did they think? We would confuse Thomas who looks, sounds and acts like a train with a car engine?
But some of these American publishers’ changes are just pure political correctness at their best. My favorite remains … this guy.
If you’re from the UK, you know him best as the Fat Controller. Because he is the train director, and, well, he’s fat. Simple. How much of a backstory do we need to give these characters? It’s not actually until you’re much deeper into the series that it’s revealed that his name is Sir Topham Hatt.
Now if you’re from the US, you know him only as Sir Topham Hatt. Not as The Fat Controller. (I imagine at some point they probably debated calling him The Horizontally Gifted Controller or the Metabolically Challenged Controller before settling on Topham Hatt.) The same is true for the character of The Thin Controller. He is only named Mr. Percival in the US. (Not the Horizontally Challenged Controller.)
And that’s fine. They can call them whatever they want. But in my house? We’re reading the British versions.