Putting trip to England on hold prompts reminiscing

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The English woman is so refined. She has no bosom and no behind. (Florence Smith).

Before the price of gasoline rose to $4.25 a gallon and the value of the English pound climbed above the American dollar, Gloria and I had planned a summer trip to merry olde England to recapture the pleasures of our previous trips.

But we remembered that we had nearly choked on a high tea crumpet when we were presented with a bill for 45 pounds ($85). I had a premonition that a future visit might be unlikely.

So during this week, when we planned to fly to the country of fish and chips, Gloria and I will instead lie on our veranda — a bottle of cold stout in my hand, a cup of English toddy in Gloria's — and recall the events that triggered our love for the mother country.

England and America are two countries separated by the same language.

As the second-youngest child, my older brothers and sisters initiated my fondness for everything British by serenading me with verses from the nation's venerable folk song "Some Think of ALEXander [sic] and Some of Hercules." In elementary school, the first book I read was "Bows Against the Barons," a tale about Robin Hood and his Merry Men.

Gloria loved the movies, particularly those starring Lawrence Olivier, Rex Harrison and Cary Grant and their delightful, romantic accents. These experiences turned us into Anglophiles.

We vowed that one day we would traipse on Trafalgar Square amid the stiff upper lips of the Queen's subjects. Many years had to pass, however, before it finally happened. Teacher Gloria was on her mid-school break and we both wanted to get away for a little R and R. "Florida," she suggested. "Arizona," I countered. Back and forth it went. Fate then reared its head to settle the argument.

We grabbed a cab for a crab dinner at Long Island's Louie's and the waitress spoke with a British accent. The next night, I randomly turned on the TV and the financial commentator reported the news with a British accent. This was more than coincidental.

"What about London?" I suggested. "Shakespeare, Dickens and Shaw are waiting. "And Jack the Ripper," Gloria teased. "But also Lawrence Olivier, Richard Harris, Pierce Brosnan and Rex Harrison." "Pip, pip, by Jove, let's have a go at it, old bloke," was Dame Gloria's way of saying, "Yes!" Gleeful Gloria packed for the trip.

England has 42 religions but only two sauces.

We arrived in London with baited breath and rode to our hotel in a red, double-decker bus instead of a lorry (truck) to better drink in the city's sights. With the wild, wrong-way traffic (not unlike the Long Island Expressway), however, we wished we had traveled in the tube (subway) instead.

Walking was no better. We spent most of our vacation running for our lives. I knew that one more day of dodging traffic and one wrong turn could mean no more "Berger's Burg."

But I am getting ahead of myself.

On the first day, we settled into a 100-year-old hotel in Hyde Park. Although the room was tiny, plumbing horrid and bed too narrow, it was marvelous.

Coincidentally, I never pass a comfort station without stepping into one to admire its decor. I learned, however, a hard lesson. A traveler should never ask for a "restroom" or "bathroom." He must say "toilet" or "loo." I did not and I was forced to twist the dance of death several times until I got wise.

Where there is one Englishman, there is a garden. Where there are two Englishmen, there is a club.

Gloria wanted us to rough it as the Europeans do, so I wore a beret and bought a hunk of salami and hard cheese and we sat, al fresco, in Covent Gardens, in foul weather, on a small space of sidewalk, which barely accommodated our derrieres. I hummed, "Some Think of Alexander" and "God Save the Queen," never minding that we were drenched.

But we loved every moment of it.

Readers, do not despair about our plight. I still expect to enjoy a vacation in England this week. How? "Elementary," as Sherlock Holmes would say. Simply by feeling supercalif­ragilistic­expialidoc­iously British.

"Gloria, release the hounds, fetch my pipe and slippers, fry some fish and chips and address me hereafter as 'His Lordship, Sir Alex of Hasty Pudding.' And you, Gloria, will be known henceforth as 'My Fair Lady of Yorkshire Pudding.'

"Yipes! Gloria, put down that wicket!"

He who laughs last has to be an Englishman.

Contact Alex Berger at

Posted 6:38 pm, October 10, 2011
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