Welcome to The Anglofile, a weekly newsletter about the United Kingdom from two people who… live in America.
We are Eva and Allie, two New Yorkers who share a longtime appreciation of the delights and absurdities of British history and culture, in particular the royal family. Once a week, we will celebrate (and occasionally skewer) bits and bobs about our beloved kingdom across the pond. We will feature interviews with genuine English people and answer important questions like: "What is Brown Sauce?"*
The Anglofile believes that the country of residence on your passport isn’t necessarily the one in your heart.
WINDSORS & LOSERS We aren't judgmental. We just think it's fun to rank the royal family against each other based on headlines from the past week.
Up 5,000 points: Prince Charles. This week Chuls tried to save his family’s reputation from the disaster known as his brother Andrew by doing everything. He DJ’d twice on Classic FM. He announced a new environmental project called “The Great Reset” and he encouraged unemployed Brits to help farmers by picking berries. And still he found time for his hobbies. “Did you know The Prince of Wales is a keen beekeeper?” read one entirely serious caption on his Instagram account.
Up three points: William and Kate played virtual bingo with the residents of Shire Hall Care Home in Cardiff, Wales. If we could, we’d actually award these points to resident Joan, who told William and Kate their bingo calling “wasn’t as good as it should’ve been.”
Neutral: Sarah “Fergie” Ferguson, Duchess of York. She managed not to embarrass the Royal family this week.
Down four points: Meghan and Harry. It’s not their fault, but People magazine’s attempt to make us love them more majorly backfired with this revelation: "Last year, for Harry's birthday, Meghan recreated their Botswana camping adventures in their backyard… Meghan wanted to bring that happy place to him on his day so she set up a tent, got sleeping bags, cooked dinner and recreated Botswana where they fell in love."
FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH Thomas Curry is an Englishman who is British and from the United Kingdom. He resides on the island of Great Britain. Some would say he is a Brit. Additionally, he writes about films and queer culture for AnOther magazine and produces podcasts at Audible.
Q: How British are you?
A: So British I pronounce it Bri’ish.
Q: Apart from having nationality bestowed on you at birth, what makes you British?
A: Refusing to complain in restaurants, shops, hairdressers, bars, pubs, you name it — no matter how egregious the error.
Q: What sort of exciting things have happened to you on the Tube?
A: Ah-ha! I have a great story for this one. A businesswoman was dozing on her way home from work. A man stood in the aisle nearby sneezed without covering his face. A glob of something green landed on the woman’s shoulder – he didn’t notice, but the rest of the carriage did. After several stops with us all transfixed by the goo, the woman awoke, noticed the blob, panicked that she’d been drooling in her sleep and surreptitiously sucked it up from the corner of her mouth. The collective intake of breath was one of the most memorable noises I’ve ever heard.
Q: What do you like most about Britain?
A: Our relentless cynicism
Q: What cliché about British people is actually true?
A: We apologise profusely. For everything. All the time. Except for the Empire, which we really should
Q: Favorite London pub?
A: The Pineapple in Kentish Town? Which is your favourite child
Q: Is Prince Charles a cool guy, in your view?
A: Must admit he doesn’t occupy my thoughts all that much. He’s certainly no Queen Margrethe though, that’s for sure.
Q: Finally, and perhaps most importantly, please tell us about your favorite British junk food snack, and why it's your favorite.
A: Surely it has to be a sausage roll? One that’s a little bit sticky and charred on the base from where the pork juices have glazed the pastry and it’s burnt a bit.
ELEVENSES Referring to the traditional British tea and coffee break around 11 a.m., here are 11 ways we are indulging our unchecked, borderline problematic love for the U.K. from abroad this week.
1. Man of the Year:“I hope the Queen’s not heavy-handed with the sword,” says Captain Tom, the 100-year-old hero of the pandemic when it was announced he was getting a knighthood this week. Cap’n Tom raised £35 million for the NHS by walking 100 laps around his garden and meanwhile I got up once today to go to the bathroom.
2. Heroes of Our Times: Have you ever related more to a sentence in print than the following? “The loss of one simple pleasure has hit at the very core of British sensibilities: we just want a freshly poured pint," laments The Evening Standard. Hearing the cries of a nation, pubs across Britain are now selling perfectly pulled pints to-go. Bless.
4. Clotted Queen: Not since Brexit has the nation of Great Britain been so divided. At hand is the polarizing issue of how to prepare one’s scones. One camp follows the Cornish Method: jam first, then cream. The other the Devon Method: cream, then jam. The Queen, who we’ve always been told stays out of politics, follows the Devon method of scone consumption, her pastry chef revealed this week.
5. "It's easier to find gold than hens at the moment.” There’s a run on chickens in Wales, reports the BBC. "A chicken gives more than just eggs," says one truth-telling hen-lover. "They're really good company and good for your mental health. Especially now.” To conclude, please enjoy this actual sentence in the article: “Gwilym Ephraim has been selling hens from his farm in Llanffestiniog in Gwynedd for decades…”
6. Your Daily History Lesson: When the 1528 plague swept London, Henry VIII was not cool about it. “Nobody was more alarmed than Henry VIII himself… his fear bordered on paranoia, even hypochondria”, writes Tracy Borman, Joint Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces. He kept well away from his beloved Anne Boleyn, but was kind enough to send her “his second-best physician.”
7. "Thirty thousand Easter eggs don't eat themselves...” The National Trust of Scotland is looking for ways to get rid of all the Cadbury’s chocolate eggs they bought for Easter events before everything got shut down. We can think of two ways and they are 1. Allie and 2. Eva.
8. Through the Window: East London Photographer Spencer Murphy shows his neighborhood under lockdown in a set of photos in the New Statesman. “I want the images to feel as though you are moving through the city, as if viewed from a moving vehicle. Brief snatches of life amid a crisis," Murphy says. Wait a minute — we were just salivating over chocolate eggs and now we’re crying?
9. A Miracle: British celebrity Amanda Holden’s weekly “Clap for Carers” video made headlines this week after fans noticed the face of the late Pat Butcher in her kneecaps. We must rejoice at this incredible miracle, but first, can someone please tell us who these people are?
10. “The Queen eats to live whereas Prince Philip lives to eat.” This was just one of the fascinating tidbits we learned in a Hello! article about Prince Philip’s daily diet. And how did you make it this far without knowing about Philip’s breakfasts? "Wherever he goes, he insists on his electric glass-lidded frying pan being packed so that he can do the cooking. For breakfast, bacon, eggs and sausages are his usual raw materials, though he often cooks kidneys and omelettes." We were fully on board until we got to the word kidneys.
11. Down For the Count: Sadly, this year’s “Swan Upping” has been cancelled. Ok, that’s very sad but what is Swan Upping? Swan Upping is the annual summer tradition dating back to the 12th century, in which swans on a particular stretch of the River Thames are counted. We are obligated to inform you that, yes, the Queen does own all 'unmarked swans' on open water, but she politely (and randomly) shares the birds with members of two trade associations.
WHO IS ______ ? Great Britain is a tiny island with a disproportionately large number of sort-of-famous people no one in America has ever heard of. In this pointless weekly column, we will introduce you to Britain’s most beloved extremely minor celebrities. Today, we meet "Grimmers."
In America, if a radio personality makes it into the tabloids, it’s because they happen to be standing near Chrissy Teigen at a party. But that is a preposterous hypothetical because no American radio personality would ever be at the same party as Chrissy Teigen. In England, it is possible to be both a radio host and a bona fide celeb.
Meet Nick Grimshaw. He is a BBC radio host and friends with Harry Styles. This guy has millions of Twitter and Instagram followers and is regular on the Daily Mail’s “right rail of shame,” a sign he has really made it onto the British A-list.
Grimmers - as his celeb friends or maybe just the tabloids call him - made his name on the BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Show, but now hosts Drivetime, an afternoon slot much better suited to his late nights with Kate Moss.
His radio presenting made him so famous he was asked to judge the 12th season of The X Factor. He’s a regular on TV, has cameos in soap operas and movies and attends London Fashion Week. The Guardian once described him as “a youth Megabrand.”
Has The Daily’s Michael Barbaro designed a line of menswear for Topshop? Has Terry Gross’s house been in Hello!? I think you know the answer.
HOW DO YOU PRONOUNCE CHOLMONDELEY ANYWAY? The section in which we spend at least 20 minutes researching a topic and release the findings here.
The people of Britain can’t help making things fancier than they need to be, from cars (Aston Martin) to names (Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch). Even the quotidian matter of childcare when left in British hands becomes an Edwardian fever dream complete with felt hat, gloves, and a Mary Poppins complex.
So naturally Earth’s fanciest nannies are trained in the U.K., specifically at Norland College in Bath. ‘Norlanders’ have the ultimate seal of approval; royals love a Norland grad, and you may have seen Prince George’s nanny, Maria, suited up for work in her traditional brown uniform.
British parents shell out for Norland nannies, as do wealthy families from around the world who want stellar childcare and status. The Spectator, ever suspicious of anything related to ‘abroad,’ cattily published the observation that, “Norland nannies have become popular with rich foreigners who are desperate to do — and pay — whatever it takes to look the part.”
Snobbery aside, Norland grads are in demand. A college administrator said there are six jobs for every graduate. Norlanders make free play and goldfish snacks look downright pitiful. Their curriculum includes “self-defense classes, security and cyber-security training, emotion coaching, sleep and behavior, a wellbeing osteopath workshop, baby massage, water safety, and skid pan driving.” Forget Mary Poppins; these nannies are straight up James Bond.
Norland training comes at a price. Aspiring nannies pay $75,000 for their degree, a very big sum in a country where university education is subsidized by the government. One skill they acquire can’t be valued; that is, of course, discretion. You will only rarely read a Norlander talking about their work, which is a terrible shame because we greatly enjoyed the last blabbermouth royal nanny’s work.
You’ve accomplished something special today by reaching the end of our newsletter. In honor of this achievement, treat yourself to this week’s Absurd Royal Fact.
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, wasn’t always a fancy semi-royal. She once had a closet full of normal people clothes. But when she started to feel her acting career taking off, she decided to give her starter clothes all away to friends at a party she called Sayonara Zara. Funny how her future sister-in-law Kate might have liked a few of those cast-offs.
Thank you for reading. Please continue to open our newsletter when it drops into your inbox every week, like a perfectly-risen Yorkshire pudding. Fluffy, crispy ‘round the edges, and essentially a mix of carbs and air.
*Brown sauce, by the way, is a condiment that somewhat resembles Worcestershire sauce and is inexplicably put on all kinds of random foods by British people. As one writer put it: "[Brown sauce] was a product of the British empire, and should have gone the same way."