Monday, March 14, 2005

Small Country

People will tell you that England is about the size of Minnesota. They're right.

Growing up in the middle of the US, I always knew that I lived in a gigantic country. I went on family vacations and spent HOURS sitting in the back seat with my brother. (Sidebar....My clever mother devised a game with lifesavers candy that kept us occupied...everyone would get a candy of their choice, and then we'd have to hold it on our tongues and you only won if you were the last one to finish yours. Cagey woman, my mom...exchanging sweets for silence, and we were totally suckered in.) My family traveled from our house in Iowa to every end of the country and we'd be gone for weeks. It'd take three days to get to Yellowstone and the ocean wasn't even close. I think we were gone for two weeks on the Detroit/Toronto/Niagra-and-back route. And when I moved from Seattle to Washington DC in my thirties, I drove from coast to coast and it was a two week undertaking (with a three day stop in the Midwest, but still.) Our country really is the width of a continent. It's incredible.

The UK, on the other hand, is a very small place. Evidence to support my case:
  • You can drive from the Midlands (technically the start of "the North") to the South in 2 hours.
  • Regional news covers 1/3 of the country.
  • Most strangers who meet seem to find a common acquaintance within 10 minutes of starting a conversation.
  • The entire country can mobilize behind Comic Relief and donate £60M to charities in Africa and the UK, a la Jerry Lewis - with no local cutaways. BI's £200 contribution got our picture on national tv at 1 AM.
  • There's only one time zone.
  • National news covers stories like one about the family in rural Surrey that has been vandalized for the last five weeks by people leaving shoes in a pile at the base of their driveway. (And all the stations covered this...it's breaking news.)
  • Celebrities just aren't all that attractive (or talented)...the talent pool is smaller, and so they have to lower their standards for the perfect nose or the right hairstyle. Hugh Grant...certainly foxy, but not especially handsome. Emma Thompson...beautiful in a unique way, but never was a starlet. Oh. And get a load of the newscasters. There's one guy who looks like one of his eyes is on his forehead. Must make it hard to read the teleprompters.

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