“The Ordinary British”

Last evening we joined a girlfriend of my wife’s for a performance in Paignton (pronounced “Painton”) of “The Dolly Show,” in which a greatly talented Australian Kelly O’Brien impersonates iconic American singer and actor Dolly Parton – not only in Parton’s singing, but her speaking voice and her sense of humor – to the point you could easily think you are at a real Dolly Parton concert. Kelly has actually met the real Dolly – who thought Kelly was incredibly talented – and is considered one of the world’s best Dolly impersonators. Her four piece band: a keyboardist, guitarist, bassist, and drummer, were superb in themselves, too.

I think I must have smiled for the entire two hours – when not singing along or shouting “yee-ha,” etc., at “Dolly’s” instigation, that is. The hundreds (some even dressed up like Dolly Parton, or at least wearing cowboy hats, boots, etc.) around us three in the theatre also really seemed to enjoy it all. Near the conclusion, the (insofar as I could discern) pretty much all British audience (and me) joined with Australian Kelly/“Dolly” in a sing-along, belting out “Country roads… take me home, to the place, I belong, West Virginia…”

[The Palace Theatre, Paignton (pronounced Painton], Devon, September 16, 2022. Photo by me.]

Wait, wait, wait. Pardon me. What have I been writing here? I must be losing it. Surely that Dolly Parton impersonation performance and that enthusiastic British audience gathered for it – and even that photo above that I thought I took – never happened. I must have been hallucinating it all.

Why?

Because this American English literature academic – who writes on his web site that he lived here in Britain for five years, and now teaches about six months year at Cambridge and has done so for about eight years… or something like that – informs us….

[From Twitter.]

Which is why, you understand, there was no way what I saw and experienced last night could possibly have happened! After all, do they get MORE *American* than Dolly Parton? LOL!

At the risk of actually addressing that tweet seriously, I do not think I have ever met an “ordinary” British person. Moreover, use of the expression “the ordinary” by anyone in academia is not usually praised. What, for starters, is an “ordinary” British person and were any in the theatre last night with us (including my British wife and her British friend)? Those would be my initial questions.

I first mentioned this on Instagram the other day and a British author messaged me and succinctly pointed out:

[From my Instagram messages, September 16, 2022.]

That tweet of his having attracted a great deal of Twitter-world attention beyond his tweeting norm, he tweeted more as he attempted further to explain his “hot take” there. In his first evidence provided for his assertion, we learn he was present when a diner pointed out Americans’ lack of deftness with chopsticks:

[From Twitter.]

That comes across as a weak Notes From A Small Island paragraph impression. (Indeed would someone who professes to know these “small” islands so well be sloppy enough to conflate “English” with EVERYONE who is “British?” Scots are certainly NOT English.) Moreover anyone who claims to know the “ordinary British” also should well-know mockery is a well-known British form not just of derision – especially toward those deemed too “full” of themselves – but of humor. I have long known – and occasionally been a target – of how British may be fond of “taking the piss” even of friends.

It is unclear from that tweet if that British diner knew he was sitting near that American when he supposedly voiced that observation, but regardless it may also be worth asking how many “ordinary” British dine in Japanese places in Bermondsey? Not having been in one there myself, I could not offer an opinion. Or does “name-dropping” a south London area Americans reading his tweets may never have heard of until then give extra “street cred” to his supposed especial insight into the “ordinary” British person?

I have been living here in Britain since 1999 – probably much longer than that American academic has been an adult. I suppose I have seen a few things over those decades, yet I would never dare offer up some blanket statement like that initial “hate” tweet. However, presumably residing here for a spell and now traveling here to teach part-time for the last few years enables him to feel that sure of himself in informing us what everyone British here thinks.

[The London Underground’s Piccadilly line, after 11 pm. Photo by me, November 2018.]

Let’s not be naive either, of course. Undoubtedly, yes, some British do not like (maybe even “hate”) Americans… much as – surprise, surprise – there also exist Americans who do not like (and even “hate”) the British. (A few of those Americans have I notice been tweeting their bigotries at him.) Yet remember too that one could easily make that same broad claim about any nationality’s “thoughts” about probably any other nationality – meaning merely remove “British” in his first tweet and substitute “French” or “Italian” or “Mexican” or “Canadian,” etc., and you have another, err, “groundbreaking” offering.

Finally, sure, there is Bermondsey. But there is also a good Indian restaurant in Codicote, just off the A1 motorway at Welwyn, in Hertfordshire. It is a short walk from where we lived from 2016-2019. While dining there once, as I enjoyed my chicken tikka and a Cobra I overheard a British diner seated nearby tell a companion that he had been to New York City – my birthplace – once and he was not all that keen on it.

[High Street, Codicote, England. Codicote Spice is across the street. Photo by me, 2018.]

Oh, my, I thought. My (British) wife did her best to keep me from utterly falling apart. Somehow, though, I managed to keep my composure and finish my meal without bursting into offended tears.

Those last two paragraphs were an attempted bit of gentle mockery on my part – just to be clear. 😉

Have a good weekend, wherever you are.😁

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