"What a lovely couple," I say in my best English accent. I know she has been up since dawn, descaling her tea pot and assembling the proper English breakfast required of such occasions.
The menu includes sausages, bacon and egg "butties," biscuits, ginger lemon cookies and something called Jaffa cakes. The telly is tuned to the BBC and Jane is singing along as some old hymn called "Jerusalem" fills the Abbey. She says it's as English as it gets. She says the same thing about curry.
I wish I was there, I tell her. Not in the Abbey. I'm talking about Jane's house just a little southwest of London, near Fort Lauderdale, where my friends and I have eaten our weight in sausages and trifle over the years.
It has been our tradition to observe any and all English occasions at Jane's house. Most of them we just make up, like Sting Night and High Tea for No Reason at All Except to Coerce Jane into Making Trifle for Us.
We insist on rigid adherence to English traditions and cuisine, bait her into anti-American ranting and eat like royalty. We have also made a very poor showing for the U.S. educational system by repeatedly losing to the English at such things as U.S. presidential trivia, but that's another story. We drink Pimm's with cucumber and after more than a decade, have very nearly learned to make tea.
And so we are here today to honor the English, who have given us so much of what makes life interesting. Like men with English accents. Camelot. James Bond. The Tudors. Also, some of my very favorite people, without whom I would have no way of knowing how to properly wear a tiara. Or anything else with the word "properly" in it.
"No tilting," Jane says firmly. But why haven't I got a nice hat with a feather in it instead? I will get one, I promise. It is not easy being English, even for one day.
Dear Bank of America,
I am in receipt of your 29-point notice outlining all of the many ways in which you intend to share information about my purchases, creditworthiness, financial transactions and other information both within your company and without, with business affiliates, non-affiliates and the marketers of other products and services, unless I call your toll-free number and opt out, in which case you will limit your sharing with non-affiliates somewhat - unless they are other financial companies with whom you wish to conduct joint marketing.
I am returning your notice along with a copy of the journal I kept during my senior year in high school, the results of my most recent pap smear, everything is fine, thank you, a couple of rejection notices from The New Yorker - I know, I was aiming high - some art photos I posed for a few years back and the receipt for a speeding ticket I got on Lake Shore Drive.
There's really no reason why you shouldn't have the whole picture. They were very tastefully done, I am told.
Also, nobody drives 40 miles an hour on Lake Shore Drive.
I'm counting on you, your affiliates, non-affiliates and the other finanacial companies with whom you conduct joint marketing not to judge too much. We all make mistakes. How was I supposed to know the punch at the toga party was spiked with grain alcohol? How were you supposed to know that a little bit of creative thinking in the mortgage market could bring down the whole economy?
Photo: Greek history class, Senior Year
Because eventually you will stop asking questions like "Who does this? Why would anyone try to close a cereal package with a thumbtack?"
Because you know who did it. And when you start asking why you have already lost.
from the drinking archives: There will be Peeps
Finally, someone has figured out that the biggest problem with the array of available feminine protection products is that they're completely bling free. So not cool.
The company has taken the first step toward pimping out its product line with a contest inviting consumers to help design a forthcoming "limited edition designer series." So overdue.
But as part of a campaign aimed at positioning their products as the go-to choice for the iCarly generation, the results are likely to disappoint fans of French impressionism. I'm giving the edge to hearts, flowers and Canadian heartthrobs.
Photo: Love is a many splendored thing. Also a recurring theme in middle school design.
SK Bonus Feature: Middle School Girl Answers Our Hair Care Questions
Q. How many accessories are enough? A. OMG!!! Just the fact that you would even ask a question like that shows how little you know about anything, least of all anything that has to do with hair. Seriously, does your hair look like that on purpose?
Scene 1: Afternoon. A park or some other outdoor space where a half dozen middle school girls have gathered.
GIRL 1: We are having so much fun. We are BFFs!! I am texting you a series of little hearts.
GIRL 3: LOL! I am texting you both. Even though we are all right here. Look! There are some boys. I heard you liked one of them.
GIRL 4: I heard somebody else liked one of them.
GIRL 1: I heard stuff too and some of it was not nice. I am going to send it out as a text to everyone. But don't repeat it.
GIRL 2: OMG! We won't. Let's go talk to those boys and make them tell us if it's true.
Scene 2. Same park. Playground area. The girls have been joined by three or four boys.
GIRL 2: Did you hear? Do you know what anybody said?
BOY 1: We never understand anything you say. But we like that you like our hair.
GIRL 3: We really like your hair. Do you want to know who doesn't like your hair?
BOY 2: What?
GIRL 1: I am never talking to her again.
GIRL 2: Who?
GIRL 1: Yes, but I never said that.
GIRL 3: Let's take sides. And say mean things about the other side.
BOY 2: Uh. Which side are we on?
GIRL 4: We'll text you later.
GIRL 5: Yeah, we're leaving. Did you get our text?
GIRL 6: We don't even like your hair that much.
Scene 1: Late afternoon, same day. A suburban kitchen. Girl 1 is staring at her iPod touch and looking morose. Her mother stands nearby looking confused, concerned. She is holding a coffee cup.
MOTHER: Do you want to talk about it? Did you see what I did with my coffee? It was right here a minute ago.
GIRL 1: No. I hate them. Go Away.
GIRL 1: All of them!
MOTHER: Right. Let me make you some hot chocolate. Let's go find a funny movie to watch together. Let's make popcorn.
GIRL 1: Okay.
Scene 1: Next morning. Same kitchen. Girl 1 glares into a mug of hot chocolate. Her mother stands nearby. She holds a notebook under her arm and a cup of coffee in her hand.
MOTHER: You can't stay home from school. Because otherwise how am I going to ruin your life? Have you seen my notebook?
GIRL 1: I hate you. You're ruining my life. Will you take me shopping after school?
MOTHER: I have a lot to do today. I am not even caught up on ruining your life last week.
Scene 2: Afternoon, same day. Same kitchen. Girls 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 are seated around a table, which is piled with opened cereal boxes, drink glasses and Ramen soup wrappers. The path to the table is a mound of discarded backpacks. The refrigerator door stands open. Mother steps in from adjoining room, which is offstage. She has a notebook under her arm, a cup of coffee in one hand and is holding a cell phone in the other. As she enters the girls all begin speaking at once.
GIRLS 1-6: Will you make us something to eat? We are starving. Will you take us to Starbucks?
MOTHER: (Walks kitchen perimeter, stepping over backpacks, pushing cabinet, refrigerator doors closed.) What are you all doing here? Has anyone seen my phone?
GIRL 1: You said you would take us shopping.
I am on the telephone when Overlord the Firstborn tosses me a new assignment. Also, a pair of basketball shorts that may or may not be clean.
"Can you smell these and tell me whether they're acceptable?" he says. "My nose is stuffed up."
I would like to be able to tell you that I let them hit the floor and set him straight with a look that was glacial, frigid, bone-chilling, arctic cold - like the perfect martini described in Nannette Stone's Little Black Book of Martinis. Like one of those 1950s television dads whose wife was in the kitchen mixing him a perfect martini.
But of course, I caught them, sniffed them, approved them and tossed them back with the reflexes of a woman whose martini aspirations run closer to good enough.
from the martini archives: There will be Peeps
A story in today's New York Times describes the lengths to which some suburbanites will go to preserve the fiction: lawn painting.
Next thing you know they'll be telling us there is no such thing as an egg orchard, an omelette patch or a tree that grows in the shape of a duck.
from the suburban lawn archives: Lawn Bradys a threat to Midwestern yard maintenance
"You forgot to remind me," he says.
I can't seem to remember to remind him. Or rather, I can't seem to remember to remind him at a time when it is convenient for him to remember.
It goes without saying that Sunday would be too early. Only an idiot would think of reminding someone of Tuesday on a Sunday.
Monday night doesn't count, obviously.
He can't be expected to remember something when he's in the middle of something else, can he? What were you thinking?
Tuesday morning doesn't give him enough time. Duh. What is the point of that?
The sweet spot, apparently, is sometime after he has finished doing anything at all on Monday, but before he has begun doing anything at all on Tuesday morning.
And hopefully before the emergence of full grown trees from last fall's yard trash, which has begun to produce buds. Trash springs eternal.
from the Boy, Esq. archives: It's the least he can do
You really can not match the forces of American consumer marketing for inspiration.
As The New York Times reports, producers of that most American of products known as "food" are pulling out all the stops to avoid having to increase prices in the expectation that the price of energy and other raw materials might surge later this year.
And by "all the stops" we mean reducing the actual amount of food in their products in a way that makes it seem like they haven't. Only a socialist would point out that this is really the same thing as raising prices.
The point is, we should be celebrating the kind of free-market ingenuity that brings us the New! Nabisco "Fresh Stacks" cracker products by Kraft, in which 15 percent fewer crackers is marketed as offering "added freshness." Or the infinite variety of other ways in which manufacturers have conspired to sell us less food without making us feel bad about it. I't s not "less" - it's healthier, it's better for the environment and it's easier to carry. How cool is that?
Some people might call this "deceptive" or "misleading," but those are the people who are ruining this country with their crazy, communist ideas about fleecing consumers. Besides what is stopping you from doing the kind of careful item by item forensic inquiry that would reveal exactly what you are paying for? Especially now that you are unemployed?
After all if costs don't rise as much as expected, we have this assurance from Heinz chief executive William R. Johnson: "We can always course-correct."
The nice thing about course-correcting is the way in which it does not actually commit you to do anything specifically.
Besides if there is anything more American than added air in the potato chip bag or a jar of peanut butter in which some of the peanut butter has been replaced by an indentation at the bottom of the jar, I don't know what it is.
I swear those crazy guys in research and development will soon have us eating nothing but air! It will be billed as "100 percent fewer calories."
Photo: Groceries, now with 20 percent more fleece!