One and Two.
C.C. would like to pride herself on being a “good” traveler—curious, respectful, an impeccable sense of direction, a comradely cheerfulness when slaughtering any native tongue, and a fearless approach to food. But the first week in England challenges her assumptions.
C.C. is in Cambridge to work on a video. Cambridge is lovely. Parker’s Piece is verdant, dotted with golden fall leaves. People ride by on granny bikes with twee wicker baskets and C.C. can’t stop herself from recalling Morrissey singing “Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before.” In fact, this refrain plays over and over in her head as she runs late to work, woefully in need of coffee, which she had no time to take at the hotel, and let’s not forget she’s operating on an eight-hour time difference.
C.C. learns a thing or two at the video shoot. There is no craft services table to speak of. Instead, there are kindly interns constantly proffering chocolate Hobnobs that C.C., who has the snacking predilections of a monkey, is constantly nibbling. The interns also offer tea or coffee, but C.C. pauses for a moment when her choice of coffee is met with the question, “White or black?” C.C. is confused and requests a “coffee with milk,” which the intern in turn translates as “white.”
The coffee arrives in a small mug, like one might find at granny’s house. And the coffee is very, very, very white. So white, in fact, you might say a dot of coffee was added to the milk. C.C. takes a sip. She tries not to make a face, but there is no denying that she is drinking a cup of Nescafe. Welcome to England. (C.C. does admire the milk itself, though: delicious, creamy, grass-fed, and simply much better than milk from BGH-‘roided-up American cows. Must be those beautiful lush rolling green hills making for tasty milk.)
Lunch is served. Recall, there is no craft services table. Instead, a woman and her son (who may very well be Napoleon Dynamite’s cousin) set up a large silver cafeteria tray over a candle and proceed to dish out a huge heap of something mostly white and hot and steaming. C.C. admits this dish is tasty, consisting of a savory and (very cooked) meat in some kind of potato-esque base. There may be what were once peas in it, too. One of the young actors (unprovoked) puts ketchup, AKA the Red Menace, on his plate and declares, “Cor blimey, this is the best cottage pie I’ve had in me life!” That alone was nearly worth the price of jet lag.
After clearing bowls away, the cast and crew line up for “pudding.” C.C. can barely contain her mirth when they serve, no kidding, a huge bowl of “pudding” that she identifies as the real Richard, Spotted Dick, with a generous helping of Crème Anglaise on top. C.C. sends an iPhone picture back to her B.F. back in the States, data roaming charges be damned.
Later—much later, as video shoots are very long, requiring that afterwards one must go to the pub for a pint, or several—so later, as C.C. trundles back to her hotel bleary-eyed, she realizes that she hasn’t had a proper coffee all day. And, looking around, mon dieu! None of the coffee shops are open at 8:00 p.m. NOT EVEN THE STARBUCKS! C.C. is not that good of a traveler to not be miffed when American companies abroad do not operate exactly as American companies do at home, especially when it comes to coffee! And as a side concern: How do Cambridge students survive?
The rest of the week continues in this vein: white Nescafe, followed by chocolate Hobnobs, followed by a heavy meal of which no vegetables were harmed in the making, heavy puddings (that C.C. partakes of for “research purposes”), followed by a jet lag/starch-induced nap that provokes ribbing from her host crew, followed by pint(s) at a pub, followed by C.C. growing more despondent over her expanding waistline for she has to run a half-marathon when the trip is over!
With nary a salad or leafy green in sight, except for the leaves on Parker’s Piece, and worst of all a SERIOUS lack of proper caffeination, things are not looking good in Cambridge for poor C.C. But will they perk up when the B.F. arrives to take her to London?