Friday, March 5, 2010
A Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Over a year ago I visited my girlfriend in London for a week. My plan for the week? Rugby, and pub crawls. Her plan? Not that. Needless to say we are now just friends. It was actually over Thanksgiving weekend, and the prospect of spending this wholly unique American holiday under the Queen was interesting. I made it clear to my girlfriend that under no circumstances will I be deprived of a full Thanksgiving meal! The Union Jack could fly over my head, no problem, but, for me it is all about the meal! My girlfriend suggested going to Heather Mills home out in the country side. Perfect! A country estate in England where I can celebrate Thanksgiving with all the trimmings! I volunteered to cook, and as I was listing all the things we would need for this Thanksgiving feast my girlfriend said, "There is one thing though." Now, when the British say, "There is one thing," in their understated manner, rest assured the "one thing" is going to be a HUGE thing!
Well, that was that, we will not be going to Heather's! No discussing alternatives to my meal, no exceptions! As quickly as the word "vegan" left her lips I nixed the idea completely and with no reservation. There will be no English country side feast for me. Besides, how do vegans even "feast?"
Although I looked online for American style Thanksgiving feasts in the middle of London, the few bars offering such events did not seem too appealing. And, in the end, I spent my Thanksgiving without turkey, without stuffing, without vegetables, without pumpkin pie, and without football. Just countless pints of ale at The Red Lion with a few pals where we nourished ourselves with swiped finger sandwiches from an adjoining office party.
Obviously, after my great vegan experience this past Thanksgiving, I wish I had chosen a vegan Thanksgiving feast in the English country side. But back then, it would still be another year before my enlightenment.
So, back to London. While I was on one of my self-guided pub crawls back then, my girlfriend became understandably bored and left to do, I don't know, whatever normal people do. Left to my own devices I wandered the streets of London like a happy Ray Milland in "The Lost Weekend." I stumbled upon Savile Row. I've heard of it, it's where all the custom tailored shops are. First things first, it is pronounced "sav (like savvy)- ill," not with the accent on the second syllable like the "Barber of Seville."
Properly de-Yankeefied in how to pronounce the name of the street, I confidently walked into one of the bespoke shops on Savile Row. After all, I was loaded down with Courage...lots of it. I strode into the polished Henry Poole & Co., planted my feet on the ground, and fists on my hips like Yul Brenner in the "King & I," and bellowed to these bespectacled Red Coats, "I would like a custom built shirt!" They all looked at each other and silently drew straws to see who was going to have to measure the crass Colonist. The friendly young apprentice was assigned the job. After a while it became a fun affair where the austere old tailor ended up showing the apprentice how to measure such a large man. There were lots of laughs all around, and they even showed me one of the ledgers of their customers and their measurements. This particular leather-bound book was from 1916 and included the name and measurements, written in perfect Edwardian penmanship, of one Winston Churchill.
So after all that money on a gorgeous shirt - light blue with darker blue pinstripes, and a white collar, I sit here today with a bespoke shirt from the famous Henry Poole & Co. and it is quite roomy! You think I could get it tailored again, free of charge? Who knew back then that I was going to change my lifestyle so drastically that I would loose a significant amount of weight?
Well, the shirt still looks great, but clearly it was made for a fat, drunk Colonist. A person I shall never meet again.