Fri, 09 Feb 2001

Mr. Wonderful,

In a little less then 2 weeks I will be off to London for to see the queen. I will be staying there approximately 4 months, soaking up the sights and most likely contracting consumption. What advice would you give to a fellow traveler to make less painless the transition between cultures?

-Virgin Atlantic


Dear Pussycat,

Y'know, Mister Wonderful used to suffer bouts of consumption, back when we hung out with Keats and Shelley and the rest. Sorry, no, hold it. My research team informs me that oral sex is not the same as consumption.

And it wasn't really suffering.

Anyway, Queen Elizabeth II and I finally buried the hatchet last year, right about this time. Buried it in a Frenchman, as a matter of fact. He had it coming. But as we dragged his body down the steps to the Thames, Bess and I realized we had more in common than just lab monkeys and porno films. The British people, even the Royal Family, even those from Manchester, know how to drink. Because the bars close at 11, don't they. Time management skills! That's what the British have that makes them so wonderful. They know exactly how to turn seven years of war into a decades-long economic slump. "You know wot?" they say. "We're fakkin tired of colonizing and industrializing the world, thank yew. We've decided to drink beer and be funny and make fantastic music for the next half-century or so, izzat all right mate?" And that's what they did. And I love them for it. I also like their bacon.

First Lesson: Buy yourself a copy of "Time Out". Oh, and be sure to visit Forbidden Planet at 71-75 New Oxford st to pick up something nice for your old Uncle Wonderful.

The next lesson: Britons do not sound polite because of their accents. They are actually polite. I know this is difficult to grasp, but bear with me. The British use more words than absolutely necessary, just because. It's not customer service: it's for real "Please" and "Thank You". It's not efficient. It's not a marketing tool. I know. Take a couple deep breaths. You'll get used to it as long as you stay away from American tourists. Language in Britain is not merely a means of conveying information. It is social lubricant.

But the biggest help I can give you in your initial transition from Southern Californian to English culture is: Remember that you are Canadian.