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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: The United Kingdom (01/22/09)

TITLE: Tuning in to British Culture
By DiAnna Steele


It was Madeline’s second trip to the UK. She had learned enough from her first trip to know that you don’t visit England over Thanksgiving and expect Brits to be celebrating that particular American holiday. Turkey was nowhere to be found. Neither was good humor when Madeline joked about it to descendants of former redcoats. Not an especially good experience, she decided to return to the UK the following summer to redeem international relations by fully embracing British culture.

Even so, all that this playful yet refined Manhattan suburbanite had previously heard about the French behaving badly toward tourists in their country was ringing true in England again. Madi quickly made a mental note...

“You get much better service in restaurants if you don’t walk in with a camera.”

She also learned to fake a pretty convincing British accent hoping the locals would be nicer to her and her traveling companion. Not bad for a young New Yorker with a normally heavy Upper East-side accent, it worked like a charm until a tourist map in her hands betrayed her when she stoppped to ask for directions.

Nevertheless, Madeline and her brother Adam had come to celebrate British culture and celebrate they did. Big Ben, Shepherd’s pie, Westminster Abbey, pictures with the guards at Windsor Palace who stood like wooden soldiers as she flirted, mere inches from their faces,

“You know you want to kiss me…” she teased.

Despite her stunning beauty, not even an eyelash was batted by the rigid men in regal uniforms.

“A girl could get quite a complex!” she shouted back to a guard as Adam yanked her arm pulling her away.

The focal point of this trip was to be the Annual Beatles Festival in Liverpool, the tickets a generous birthday gift from Madi to her older brother. Bands from all over the world took to multiple stages over the course of several days to resurrect Beatle-mania. The Festival provided an annual frenzy for Beatles fans of every continent to gather and worship at the altar of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Foreigners donned black wigs and impersonated their favorite Beatle band members, crooning the tunes that defined pop culture in the 60’s.

Madeline drew a disapproving look from Adam who secretly struggled not to grin when she commented that her personal favorite act was, “The Japanese Beatles because they’re cute as a bug!” She couldn’t help but think how adorable they were dressed in 60’s suits & straight black ties singing “I wanna hole your han.”

Liverpool sports a host of pubs blasting Yellow Brick Road on the loudspeakers as well as John Lennon art galleries and the Cave where the career of the FAB FOUR was first launched. Seemingly the only non-Beatles fan in the entire city, Madeline quickly grew bored of the British culture and was delighted to spy a charming Italian restaurant. The music alone made it worth the price of dinner…Andre Botticelli CD’s over the sound system afforded Madeline the opportunity to cleanse her musical pallet.

At one point she ducked into the bathroom to delight herself in providing the vocals of Sarah Brightman at the top of her lungs in a duet with Botticelli to Time to Say Goodbye. Not aware that the restaurant walls were paper thin, she stepped out of the ladies room to a robust round of applause from wait staff & other dining patrons. Madi curtseyed, noting gleefully to herself they clapped harder for her than the audience did for the Scottish Beatles in kilts! “Though that’s not really saying much”, she thought.

Days later, donning earphones in First Class of a Boeing 777, Madeline breathed a sigh of relief as her head swayed to the gentle rhythm of Pavarotti’s rendition of Ave Maria. She recalled the Beatles Festival and wondered to herself, “How did short Brits with funny haircuts hijack the parameters of what is considered good music?” She marveled at the stark contrast between melodic tunes of Italian opera at a simple restaurant and the hysteria of women screaming like teens over Beatles wannabes wailing out “Love Me Do…”

Leaning over to the seat next to her, Madeline queried her brother, “Is it just me or does it seem that lyrics like ‘we all live in a Yellow submarine’ are highly over-rated?”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Dee Yoder 01/29/09
Oh, so funny! Love the sarcastic and self-deprecating wit in this and that you offered a real tourist's view (good and bad) of the the UK.
Jan Ackerson 01/30/09
I enjoyed this very much!
Karlene Jacobsen02/01/09
This was fun to read. Honestly, I wasn't allowed to listen to groups such as the Beatles, for they were not classical (Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, etc.)
Gregory Kane02/03/09
Right on the money - an excellent observation of British life and culture.
Just to be a spoiler though, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is by Elton John.