Sunday, 2 November 2008

America - A Land Of Grit

I don't know if you've noticed but the Americans are having an election: on Tuesday they get to make X`s, press buttons, pull levers and hang chads to elect the leader of the free world. It's all very exciting if you enjoy elections, which I happen to do. So, with all the zeal and enthusiasm of someone who's views count for absolutely nothing – Go Obama!

Soon after Polly and I were married we were invited to provide comedy drama sketches for a mini tour of a few of the states with UK Methodist evangelist, Rob Frost. If you have a stereotypical image of an evangelist flying in on Business Class, travelling around in a fleet of Limos and staying in 5 star hotels you are thinking of some one other than Rob. The purpose of the tour was to say thank you to some local supporters, make a few contacts and generally have a good time. The touring party consisted of Rob, his PA Marion, a guy called Matt who was along to lift things and wear a wig (I'll explain later), Polly and Kate who were the actors, and me along for the ride and to make witty and pithy observations on Anglo-American relationships. As far as Polly and I were concerned it was, what we in the biz call, 'a bit of a jolly'.

We left England on a warm, pleasant June afternoon and arrived in Georgia some ten hours later to be hit in the face by a wall of hot air, so full of humidity you didn't so much breathe as drink it. It was about 8.30pm local time but 2.30am for our jet-lagged bodies. We were greeted by some local Methodists who, displaying customary southern hospitality, insisted on taking us out for dinner. We went to a local restaurant and perused the menu which included such exotic things as grits, griddle cakes and black-eyed peas. All the main courses were meat laden platters, steaks, turkey, meat loaf and so on. Wonderful for me. Polly, a vegetarian, on the other hand was a bit disconcerted. Firstly, she, being typically English, ordered Tea. It came, ice cold, in a glass. After puzzling over the menu for a while she asked the waitress, 'call me Annie-Lou, honey', if there was a vegetarian option. This was 14 years ago and things may be different now, but back then, in rural Georgia, vegetarianism was regarded as some kind of Yankee liberal plot against decent America. Annie-Lou struggled for a moment and then suggested Annie-Lou's Georgia grits.

A while later, after some sleep deprived conversation, our meals arrived. I had a genuine American burger with more toppings and cheeses than your average deli. Polly poked hesitantly at her grits, a rather gloopy corn based porridge with bits in it. She tasted it, with one eye on me and the others as we tucked in to our piles of grilled or roasted cow, and tried very hard to look as if it was just what she was hoping it would be. Annie-Lou hovered anxiously, hoping it met with Polly's fine English approval. After a few moments chewing Polly asked what the little bits floating in the vegetarian grits were. They tasted a little bit. . . well, meaty. Annie-Lou was quick to reassure her. “That ain't meat, honey. That's little lumps of bacon fat.” Polly blanched. “Bacon's not meat, honey, it's flavouring.”

It was the start of a wonderful few weeks that included a hurricane, Alcatraz, a Christian theme park, a very squeaky bed and the mystery of Ay-uh. And cats. Lots and lots of cats.