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Thursday, 19 October 2006

Hold the Fries: Moving to Wales - Page 4

Written by Katherine H. Breen
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I come from America, land of the free and home of the super-sized. We super-size, oversize, and jumbo-size everything from fast-food meals to roadways. One of the first tasks I faced living in Wales as an expatriate was learning to drive on roads the width of American bike paths.


Anne was Crickhowell’s driving instructor. She had taught all the children of Glanusk Estate how to drive and came highly recommended by Lady Legge-Burke, the estates heiress. Anne and I spent many hours cooped up in my Honda CRV. Anne was an inveterate Yankee-phile and seemed to have visited more places in America as a tourist than I had in my forty-two years as a citizen. Our conversations always found their way toward comparing Britain with America.

She was a woman who loved bargains--a true American virtue. So I felt comfortable telling her how I went to Abergavenny to a “real butcher,” totally unaware as I was that my own town of Crickhowell had two of its own. She became suddenly quiet and stared hard at me. I mistakenly thought she was interested in what I was saying and dug myself deeper into the tale. I told her that the boys were with me and were left spell bound as half-pigs (with cross-sectioned views of their thin pink lips and tiny white teeth) swung on meat hooks as they were pushed into the shop.

“You don’t see that in Stop and Shop…” Ha. Ha.

It was all she could bear as we passed the centre of Crickhowell, heading back for Glanusk after what I considered a productive first lesson. Anne immediately stopped my musings and set me straight. “Kathy pull into that that space there.” I knew it was urgent, because we had never practiced parking. Head-on would have been a challenge at this stage, but her choice in insisting on parallel parking in the centre of our Crickhowell’s busy market made even less sense to me.

“Richard’s is adequate.” She tapped her tapered nail against the passenger window drawing my attention to the butcher shop named “RICHARD’S.”

“I’m sorry Anne, what did you say?”

She went on to explain, perhaps, one of the most critical cultural nuances I was to learn…One does not purchase meat outside the village in which one resides, and should one do that, one never admits it.

I felt I committed a huge village sin and instead of the identifying red “L” (for Learner Driver) stuck to my car hood, I should have a red “BB” (Butcher Betrayal) instead. In tiny Crickhowell, there are only two doors between the two butchers; how could I have missed them?

Anne strongly recommended Richards as the “better of the two.” When I suggested it would be fun to visit both, Anne repeated, Richards was the “better of the two” and added there was “no need to shop anywhere else.” Fearing she would inform the local driving authorities of my ineptitude on the roads, I steered the conversation away from any further thought of meat selection infidelities.


(Page 4 of 5)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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