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Letter from the editor: Only in America

I know this is the equivalent of asking you to look at my holiday snaps, but yesterday I promised to share with you a couple of small reflections from my recent break in California.

Do you remember the episode of Fawlty Towers when a couple from the Sunshine State arrive at the hotel and demand fresh orange juice? "Not out of a bottle!" demands the irascible guest, comparing it with the abundance of fresh fruit back home.

Well, guess what. Exactly the reverse is true. It's easier to get proper orange juice in Devon than San Diego. This is how the conversation went at a selection of top Californian hotels.

Me: Do you have freshly squeezed orange juice?

Waiter: We certainly do, sir.

Me: Has it been squeezed here?

Waiter: Not exactly. It arrives freshly squeezed.

Me: In a bottle?

Waiter: Yes.

And so it went on. Even in Orange County, they didn't see the irony of not having oranges to squeeze. They may not be big on irony in California, but they can do showmanship. At a restaurant in LA, our waitress - a 60-year-old in pigtails - asked us the purpose of our visit. We told her we'd been playing golf, which prompted her to tell us about her starring role in an off-Broadway (very off-Broadway!) production called "Golf - The Musical".

And then, at our table, she launched into a medley of songs, including the memorable "My husband is playing a round". It wasn't exactly Rogers and Hammerstein, but we sat there open-mouthed as she sang, giving it full show-tune flourish: "He told me he was on the phone to one of the guys/ So you can just imagine my surprise/ When I heard him saying through the thin plaster walls/ See you in an hour when I've washed my balls!"

It was one of those Only in America moments. Meanwhile, tomorrow we've got one of those Only in Europe occasions: a day of public-sector strikes. Ah well, reality bites.

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