Some of you may have seen a recent article on NJ.com listing the 12 worst things about living in New Jersey. As a member of a country where self-deprecation is the law, I approve. But the article has prodded me to a defense of my adopted state, prodded me so successfully I even want to write it down and post it (and spell defense the American way even though it makes my teeth hurt). It’s like a letter to the newspaper, only I am the newspaper and there are about three readers. But still.
I feel I am uniquely qualified to defend the Garden State because:
Alert readers may have noticed that the photo of our beloved Great Pyrenees pooch Hannah has been removed from my cover page. When we lost her in June 2015, to acute leukemia, I couldn’t take her off the site for a long time. Everyone who met her knew what a special soul she was, and I couldn’t write about losing her without making it real. We should have had several more years of her mellow, calming presence. She trained us to be dog owners, and we will never forget her.
The kids and I wanted to adopt again right away, but Mr. A balked, and it was a good thing he did because otherwise P & Q would never have come into our lives. I’ll call them P & Q because we’ve given them slightly rhyming names and you’ll never keep them straight. They were part of a litter that was found starving in a field in Tennessee. Louie’s Legacy Rescue took them, fixed them up, and shipped them to New Jersey. They were taken in by their wonderful foster mother, who socialized them and taught them that they didn’t have to fight over food, that humans were safe to approach and accept love from, and that treats were the best thing in the world.
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
I know what you’re going to say: euw. Kimberley, they’re nine and twelve, for God’s sake. Why are you trampling all over this lovely innocent book that brightened my youth and taught me the value of gardening?
I am not advocating anyone getting any ideas about the kids as portrayed in the book (which is arguably my all-time favourite, by the way). But I put it to you that you know that I know that you know that Dickon only needed a couple more years, and perhaps a job standing next to horses in the manor stables, to turn him from happy-go-lucky scamp to serious rustic hottie. And Mary is going to fall for him like a stone into a well just as soon as she grows some hormones.
I promised this series a while ago. Problem is, my English Lit side has trouble writing a review of a book I haven't researched the bejesus out of for a few months. So I'm finally getting to this on the understanding that I haven't done that, so if you don't like my opinions or I come up with some fact that isn't true, then you don't have to pay for next month's issue. Oh that's right...
Charming (Pax Arcana #1), by Elliott James
You have to understand: this is not my kind of book. I have no desire to read about vampires rending each other limb from limb, or new and exotic ways to torture people who can’t die. But I got this for free at BookExpo 2013, and I can’t ignore books that come to me like that. I love books that mess with fairy tales. Also the cover guy was pretty cute in a psychotic kind of way. Also, swords are wayyyyyy sexier than guns any day, as far as I’m concerned. But I certainly didn’t open the book expecting to find a rip-roaring romance therein (no, the title didn’t tip me off). I thought he’d just be waving his sword at damsels the whole time, not actually falling for someone.
I know, I know. Yesterday's rugby result was dismal. But despair not! There are still things the English are good at! Words, for one!
"Stonehenge, Condado de Wiltshire, Inglaterra, 2014-08-12, DD 09" by Diego Delso. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons -
Yeah, I thought that title would get your attention.
I’ve just spent two amazing weeks in France and England; two weeks that have taught me so much about being an ex-pat, and the concept of home, that I’m having a bit of an identity crisis. So while I deal with that, here are some other things I learned. This week, from our Gallic friends:
1. It is possible to eat every croissant a bistro has.
2. Pretty much every single street in Paris is gorgeous. Even the one with all the sex shops on it.
Well, goodness, I am finding it hard to tell you this, but if I don't, who else will? Going against all my proper English upbringing of not drawing attention to oneself or tooting one's own horn (mother would also not have approved of the word 'tooting'), I am forced to let you know that, well, that I placed third in a short story contest. Phew, there, I said it. Sorry to bring it up and all, but, you know, one is trying to make a living here. And the nice people over at Wordhaus and The Write Practice were kind enough to like one of my scribbles.
Okay, modesty over. You wanna read it? Well, be good enough to increase Wordhaus and the Write Practice's traffic by clicking over to them and having a look around, and then make yourself a quick cuppa and come back here.
Woah, okay, there’s been far too much sentiment going on around here. All this talk of love and feelings and the like. Simply isn’t British. So to get things back on track, let’s do something silly.
Buzzfeed started me off, with their excellent (and funny) list of Most British-Sounding Words. (Warning: please do not go around trying most of these words out in general conversation. You’ll get a poke in the eye, or worse, an offended sniff and no invite to Mummy’s for Sunday dinner.) Unfortunately, Buzzfeed left out a few of the best words we have to work with. Words that can be savored in the mouth like a cream-and-jam-covered scone. Oh, and my words are cleaner. Enjoy.
Today is the eighth anniversary of my dad’s passing. It’s also, to me, the first day of summer, because it’s June and I’m sorry but I’m not waiting till the 21st to feel summery. Coincidentally, these two things put me in mind of Pimm’s, that quintessentially British beverage; why they do this, I’ll get to in a minute.
My dad was the party guy. The whole neighborhood knew it. He worked and lived abroad, as a pilot, for large chunks of my formative years, which I now realize was very lonely for him, but when he came home he was the life and soul, and the G&Ts flowed freely. He worked this far from home so that he and my mother could afford boarding school fees for us three kids, for which I am eternally grateful. It was the greatest thrill of my life to hear his key in the lock after months away. The smell of aviation fuel and the sight of pilots in uniform still makes me feel like Santa’s arrived.
My husband made the bed for me the other day.
Not the regular, throw the sheets randomly over and sling a few pillows to the head of the bed way. Not even the strip the bed and change the sheets way. No; Mr. A put together our guest bed frame, which has been in pieces for months. He didn’t have to do this. We had a thousand jobs to do that day and we were both really busy and rather cranky. But he knew I’d like it so he did it. Now that’s a twenty-year-married kind of love.
[He and the girls had also brought me breakfast in bed, because we were going to be out of the house on Mother's Day and that's my favourite part of the day. Bless his cotton socks.]
I love Spring. I’m a summer baby, so I feel disloyal saying this, but it’s true: New Jersey in the spring is delightful. You got yer daffodils and yer tulips for sale all over Shoprite, the magnolias start having a party, the willows drift happy green branches at you, and teeny little black ants start to colonize my countertops again.
Now I didn’t want to do this so early, because this blog is going to be light and entertaining and not controversial in any way (unless you’re going to tell me Lipton makes good tea, in which case, pistols at dawn, sirrah). But there comes a time when even a cynical Englishwoman must make a stand. And I’ve decided to do it over chocolate. Which is funny because I’m not even that much of a chocolate eater. Ah, the irony. Well, if they start trying to ban PG Tips you can all watch me really let loose.
Since it was just St. Patty’s Day, and I have about as much Irish in my blood as Zaphod Beeblebrox, let’s talk about Bruce Springsteen.
(Sure, he’s Irish; Wikipedia says so.)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that anyone who wishes to survive long within the boundaries of New Jersey will demonstrate early and often their abiding love of Bruce Springsteen. America has taken him to her bosom, but he started, as the kids here are taught in kindergarten, playing at the Shore.
I love accents. If I had all the time and money in the world, I’d wander the country just listening (probably spending most of my time in Boston, because Matt Damon). I love that the U.K. has so many distinct accents and even dialects, packed into an island (and a bit) the size of Oregon. I love the history of accents in the U.S., the changing vocabularies as the settlers went west, the whole New Yawk thing. Dropping your r’s is upper class! No, it’s low class, stop doing it right away! No, it’s cool to have a New York accent! Start doing it again! So fun.
Back in England, I always picked up on accents and usually unthinkingly used them myself.
Bless you for coming to my site. Really. I’ll be rambling on about being English in New Jersey a lot, talking about reading and writing a bit, perhaps even posting some stories. To reward you for your time, I’ll start with the one where I’m a raging Goth (complete with shaved temples, more eyeliner than Adam Lambert and an inexhaustible supply of cross necklaces) and a blond-haired, blue-eyed Yank in pink madras catches my eye across a crowded bar. He bought me my first pair of 501s, you know, and the rest is history. My mum’s face lit up like it was Christmas when she met him. My brother heaved a giant sigh of relief. The crosses got smaller and smaller, the eyeliner was left for the boys, and the hair grew out, and four-and-a-half years of long-distance dating later, we were married in NJ, in the back yard of the prettiest house in the county.
Of course, if my daughters come up to me when they’re 18 and say, “Mom, I’ve met the man I’m going to marry,” I’ll be guffawing and Mr. A’ll be getting the dogs ready, but then again, you never know…
Kimberley Ash is a British ex-pat who has lived in and loved New Jersey for almost thirty years. When not writing romance, she can usually be found cleaning up after her two big white furry dogs and slightly less furry children. Her first novel, Breathe,has been re-released through her own publishing company, Tea Rose Publishing. Her trilogy, The Van Allen Brothers, was released by Tule Publishing in 2019.