Better Great Tew than Tiny Town

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The Independent Online
I'M ON A book tour over here and I feel like a groundhog. (Do you know groundhogs? Large, rodent-like creatures, live underground?) I feel all pale and blinking and jumpy out in the light like this. The attention is going to my head. I can't wait to get back to LA and again be treated like scum.

Oh, OK, I'm thinking of moving here. My brain has turned into a little calculating machine . . . adding, subtracting, figuring out which is better. Right now England is winning.

Here's the main reason - writers don't need to live in cities, but in America it's horrible to live in the country. Everyone is enormously obese, festooned entirely in double-knit polyester, usually secured by safety pins, and has a brain addled by the consumption of Big Macs and watching 10 hours of 78 channels of cable television a day.

Cable television is the scourge. It is governed by profiteers who have a vested interest in making its viewers as brain dead as possible so that they will not only sit slack-jawed and hypnotised while watching a show about a fabulous new hairspray which totally camouflages men's bald spots with stringy hair-like goop, but will then actually call the toll free number and buy car- loads of this ozone-depleting ooze.

The people in Tiny Town, America, are the primary victims of such pre- digested pap since their only other stimulation is wandering aimlessly through identical shopping malls, hankering after useless items they can no longer afford.

Whereas the people in rural English villages, deprived of televison brainwashing, are as sharp as tacks. At least the postmistress in Great Tew, Oxon, is. I was in there this morning, mailing a videotape. She was very friendly and I was desperate for someone to talk to after a solitary week.

'You see,' I said, ever so confidingly, 'if they like this video I'll get to be on the Clive Anderson show.'

She didn't curl her lip or anything. There was no disapproval in her glance, just a shock of comprehension and an amused 'I see'.

'Um, what I mean is, well, argh,' I said, backing away. I fled the 20 yards to my cottage and hid under my sofa.

So if they try to shove hundreds of channels of cable television down your throats over here, don't let them or you'll become an idiot like me.

THEN again, you have posh people over here, a species that may be even worse than the walking undead. You know who I mean. The ones with voices that sound like they are choking on butter, with the gimlet eyes that say plain as day, 'Get out of my way you frightful little person'.

We have a similar variety in the States, but they're content with making sure everyone notices them driving big BMWs and wearing Rolex watches. They don't feel the need to bray self- importantly in restaurants. And they don't feel the need to insult you.

There was this posh person on a radio show I was on where everyone was being frighteningly witty every moment. The posh person, Victoria something, sat next to me and pronounced 'there are no funny women'.

'Oh, ah,' I said humorously.

Then she asked everyone if they would go to bed with Robert Redford for dollars 1m and I said I'd go to bed with Robert Redford for dollars 10 and she said, 'Well, we all know what you are' and I became rancid with fury.

'Don't worry,' everyone I know told me later, 'she isn't even really posh.' Does this make it OK? I don't understand any of this.

THEN there's the gossip. England is awash with it. Everyone has something scandalous to say about everyone else. I would ask J, say, what she thought of our mutual friend W, fully expecting that she would be entirely complimentary with just a few tricky adjectives thrown in and I would have to read between the lines. No.

'That W is such a cow,' J would say. 'She's having an affair with P, your best friend's husband. The reason you haven't seen her for two weeks is that she's been in Switzerland having this massive facelift.'

I love this stuff. In Los Angeles no one dares say anything critical about anyone, because that person might know another person who could get them a job some day. So Los Angeles is seething with hostile undercurrents and people spend all their time on the latest home exercise equipment, ridding themselves of evil energy.

AS USUAL, I'm amused by the British perception of what's going on in America. You've unearthed some polls that say we're already fed up with Clinton. We're not. Every day we read in the papers that he's trying to reverse some racist, sexist, anti-green, anti-animal policy adopted during the malevolent Reagan-Bush era. And every day we hope he gets away with it. We don't hate Hillary either. We hate those old fart Republican filibustering senators.

Also, trust me, we're not obsessed with Political Correctness. University students go bonkers about it but what are students for? But you seem to think we're lousy with PC. I wish we were. It would be a nice change from all the cab drivers ranting about those 'damned niggers', those construction workers entreating all female passers- by to sit on their face, and the anti- Semitic slurs echoing through the black community. We all hate each other, and if changing our language changes our thinking I'm for it.

I JUST went to the doctor. My back went into spasm. They didn't make me fill out pages of insurance forms or turn me away because I had no insurance. They didn't make me wait an hour and a half and then charge me dollars 200, part of which I might get back if I filled out 80 more forms entirely correctly. The doctor saw me right away, he didn't exude doctorish arrogance, he gave me my drugs and the whole thing took half an hour and cost pounds 4.25.

That does it. I'm moving here.

Lynn Barber is on holiday.

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