How does an Italian American, living and working in NYC, minding her own business I might add, end up on the news in England….TWICE!! Moreover, how does she not manage to see either broadcast?
Well, here are my stories….
I visited England for the first time in the 90s and enjoyed traveling round, eating country pub food and taking in all the country had to offer. My boyfriend was British and as it was just before Christmas, he was kind enough to purchase English food for me to take home to New York. One of the items that would haunt me later lay wait in my luggage, a Christmas Pudding. When we arrived at Manchester Airport, my luggage was x-rayed and I moved on to the check-in counter. I was then met by a very imposing security agent who pulled me to the side and proceeded to grill me for the next 30 minutes! Now I had travelled somewhat by this time so was familiar with the usual questions: did anyone give you anything to carry, did you pack your own bags?? But no, now I was being asked who I was with and I had to point out my boyfriend from whom I’d been separated from during this ordeal. I was not allowed to speak to him or look to him for answers. The agent continued. Why did you come to England? Where did you both go? What did you do while you were here, what kind of work do you do? I began to sweat and wondered if I had done something wrong. Did he know that I took the Suchard’s hot cocoa that had been left in my hotel room? After what seemed like forever, he let me go and I sat down in the lounge with my boyfriend where we said our tearful goodbyes. I tore myself away and moved through security and on to the gate. Lo and Behold! The same testy security agent was there standing next to the jetway waiting for none other than little ole me! I thought, do they just take their security so seriously that they escort people to the plane or could it be that he was trying to make amends for being so hostile earlier? He wished me a good flight and I boarded the plane, settling down for a 7 hour flight.I arrived at JFK, collected my luggage and returned home. My family was excited to hear about my travels and in relaying my experiences, I walked over to my luggage to extract the souvenirs I had purchased for them. I was horrified and frankly, pissed off to find that my bags had been slashed with razors. Those bastards! I assumed someone at one of the airports had stolen from me. But no, as I continued to look through my belongings I realized nothing had been taken and all my souvenirs and the food I was given was in tact and there in front of me. That’s strange I thought. And a while later forgot all about it.
My boyfriend called to make sure I arrived safely and informed me that he knew why I had been questioned at the airport so intensly. He said that it had been on the news that same day that the Manchester Airport had installed new x-ray machines that could not differentiate between semtex, an explosive used by terrorists and favored by the IRA at the time and my Christmas Pudding! The agent wasn’t greeting me he was waiting to see if I got on the plane…..I’m still waiting for my apology!!
Fast forward 10 months later and I was living in England and had just been married. My new husband, myself and my family had been staying in a manse (home of a vicar or minister) as my father in law was just that and had married us a few days before. As we were honeymooning in Scotland we left eastern England at 4am to be able to get to Western Scotland, Glasgow, to drop my family off at the airport. I had thrown on comfortable clothes for the long trip up into the highlands and had not even put on make-up. We were headed to the Isle of Skye for our honeymoon and took the foodstuffs we had acquired at the manse with us.
The roads and vistas in the highlands were breathtaking. We had traveled past Gretna Green where lovers go to elope, stopped off at Loch Lommond where the fog hovered above the water on a beautifully sunny day and were on the outskirts of Fort William when we had to stop for petrol (gas). There was a film crew there which did not faze me in the least as one always sees tv shows or films of one kind or another being made in New York. My husband got out to pay for the gas and the film crew rushed him. They said they were asking people what brought them to the Highlands of Scotland as they were doing a piece on this. My husband, a man of very few words, pointed to the “Just Married” sign on the car and proceeded to walk into the shop. The crew then turned their attention on me. I happily showed them my wedding ring and one cheeky git who I would later learn was a famous football star there known as Allie McCoist, said “oh aye, I see you have jams in the back seat, what are you plannin on doin with those then.” A sound man then thrust his fuzzy microphone in my face as I answered in earnest, “My husband likes his crumpets, they are for him.” Well! that was it, 4 grown men were in hysterics and falling all over themselves. My heart dropped as I knew I’d said something wrong but had no idea what it was yet. There was another man there who I would also later learn was a famous comedian called Fred MacAulay who jumped on that and continued to ask embarrassing questions until my husband returned and they scattered like sheep.
My husband saw their reaction and saw my face and said “Oh no, what did you say?” I told him that I’d shown them my wedding ring and talked about the honeymoon and our plans and that one of them had asked about the jams in the box in the back seat and I told him that you like your crumpets. “Oh no, oh no” he moaned, looking down shaking his head. What! What did I say? I implored. He looked at me with a pained face and said “crumpet means ‘a piece of ass’ here.” To say I died of embarrassment would be an understatement and……. premature. We got back on the road and stayed a night in Fort William, a lovely place if not for the F16s that love to break the sound barrier there while people are trying to sleep! As we moved deeper in the highlands we lost radio signal and when we arrived at our cottage we had no tv reception save local channels that were in gaelic! We also had no phone. When we happened upon a call box (phone booth) my husband called his parents to let them know we’d arrived safely. His 77 year old father, the vicar I mentioned before, proceeded to tell him that he had had a number of calls from various family members who had seen his son’s new American wife on the telly (tv) on the McCoist and MacAulay Show which is seen by millions of people as it is broadcast after Match of the Day, a show that highlights all the football (soccer) matches that took place that day!The faces of all the sweet people who had come to the wedding flashed before my eyes. As did the details of that day: no make up, boring clothes, crumpets and jams…..I felt my stomach flip and wanted to crawl beneath a mound of heather and never come out! The show aired on BBC and to this day and after repeated requests and out and out begging, I still have not seen the episode in which I featured! What I do know is that the comedy duo had a segment that basically made fun of people on the street. Partial ignorance, semi bliss yes…but continously cringeworthy? Oh Aye!