by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

LONDON — Now I know the real reason our forefathers left this country: the rain.

I’m not kidding. The way it’s been coming down, I’d have been on a boat, too. “America? Yeah, yeah, fine. Just get me outta here.”

This has been the wettest week I can remember. At Wimbledon, they have a budding tradition: play a game, run inside, play a game, run inside. It’s not strawberries and cream anymore, it’s strawberries and skim milk.

Excuse me, I have to help pull the tarp over the grass . . .

Did I mention that the other day the rain was so bad they asked Cliff Richard, the old pop icon, to take a wireless mike and sing to the bored tennis crowd? Now I know that once upon a time Cliff Richard was a teen heartthrob, but so was Peter Tork. These days, Cliff looks like Dudley Moore and sounds like a lounge lizard — although, in Cliff’s defense, it’s not easy to perform to umbrellas.

Excuse me. I have to bail out my chair . . .

Anyhow, Cliff sang all his hits, such as, well, whatever his hits were. And the Brits sang along. Which brings me to another observation about our old mother country: They have no rhythm. Also, they will do anything during bad weather, except leave, which is what Americans would have done. Not wanting to waste the tickets, the English crowd hung around the rain- soaked Wimbledon for hours, doing the wave, the twist, the Freddy, you name it. One section formed a conga line. Another began a patriotic chant which, to my ears, sounded like this:

All a chord for England,

England, England!

I’m a Ford in Englaaaaaand

Let’s eat some dinosaurs — HOO HAH!

And they said these folks were stuffy. It’s bedtime for the BBC

Of course, England’s singing is nothing compared to its television. Not too long ago, they didn’t broadcast anything during the day. Then they grew to two channels, BBC1 and BBC2, the only difference being one does documentaries about dolphins and the other documentaries about bees.

Now British TV has four — count ’em, four — channels, and has blossomed into programs such as “Carnal Knowledge,” a game show that airs at 1 a.m. and features giggling, blindfolded women trying to guess their boyfriends by squeezing their rear ends.

“All right, Jane, give the cheeks a jolly good try.”

“Will do.”

“Well? Is it Roger?”

“Dunno. Can I ‘ave anotha ‘int?”

There is also a show on each morning that just astounds me, an interview program along the lines of “Regis & Kathy Lee” — only the show is conducted IN BED! That’s right. The guests get in the bed with the host and have a discussion. IN BED! The other day I saw Salman Rushdie on this program! So I guess, as far as Salman is concerned, the coast is clear.

Coming soon: “The Satanic Pillow.”

British people seem particularly preoccupied with bedrooms, nighties, bosoms and sex. Their tabloids have seminude girls on Page Three, and seminude guys on Page Seven. (The seminude golden retrievers are on Page 33.) They are also very big on reprinting cheesecake photos of famous people. There are shots of Sarah Ferguson sunbathing in the nude, and actress Emma Thompson sunbathing in the nude. The other day, they ran a closeup of Steffi Graf’s neck, which appeared to have a red mark. The headline asked, “WHO GAVE YOU THE HICKEY, STEFFI?”

Personally, I think the whole country needs a dose of saltpeter.

Excuse me while I start the sump pump . . . But the police are nice

None of this compares to the experience I had last week. A bag of mine was stolen from a taxi, so the driver took me to the police station. “Wait here,” he said. “I’ll get somebody.”

He’ll get somebody?

Sure enough, he went into the station and came out with a police officer. I felt like saying, “What? No french fries?” The cop got into the car and listened to my story. He was very nice and suggested I file a report inside.

The police station resembled a doctor’s office, everyone very calm, waiting their turn. A female officer would yell out, “Who’s next, please?” They even had magazines.

Of course, when my turn came, the officer wrote down my story with a pen, then ripped off a little corner of the paper and wrote a number on it and said that was my “official” police report. So I have no hope of ever seeing my bag again, but I do know a fine place to read Time magazine.

I went back outside.

And it was raining.

So I will shed no tears to leave Mother England, although I might be dripping a little. And I now understand that old expression, “Mad dogs and Englishmen come out in the midday sun.”

Around here, you take what you can get.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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