An Arkansas Razorback in Queen Elizabeth Country

Flag of the United States of America
Flag of the United States of America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My daughter and I were discussing the differences between America and England. She had read a blog or two about Brit’s abroad and living in the US. I thought that they must be interesting and then wondered why I hadn’t thought of doing something similar.

I have always enjoyed living in England. Growing up and watching Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce playing as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s great double act, Holmes and Watson made me long to tread those foggy streets of London. When I was given the opportunity to live here courtesy of Uncle Sam, I couldn’t believe my luck.

I will point out that I have actually lived in the United Kingdom longer than I lived in the country of my birth. I have thought of this castle filled country as my home for at least the last eighteen years. I got out of the USAF as part of the force downsizing drill in the nineties and not too long after applied for citizenship. Luckily for me, I did not have to ‘give up’ my status as an American citizen so I’ve always had the best of both worlds.

Despite the fact that I came to this country with a cloud over my head (that would soon be replaced by the real clouds that so frequently fill the sky in this country) I felt that just walking the streets was a great adventure. For years I would be driving somewhere and see the ruins of a castle or a picturesque thatched cottage and think, “Wow, I can’t believe I’m living here!”

Of course I have now lived here so long, that I don’t have many occasions where I have trouble with the local language or have to learn about traditions or quaint practises of the country. I have, though, developed a strange accent. One that is an odd blend of Arkansan,  American, and English. I live in Suffolk, one of the more rural areas of East Anglia, where you can get trapped behind a tractor for miles on a narrow, two lane road and the local populace all talk like an English version of country bumpkins.

It is a beautiful countryside that still plays havoc with my sinuses, despite having lived full-time in the county since 1990. And each year I await the rape and mustard season with dread knowing that my eyes will water and itch and my nose will steadfastly refuse to work properly until the blasted stuff is harvested.

But back in 1982, I didn’t know about rapeseed and mustard and how much it can affect you. I only knew that I really needed a change of scenery and the positive press I got from my  commander made it sound a bit like heaven. I got my orders and flew to RAF Mildenhall, the “Gateway to Europe” and arrived on the 5th of July 1982. My sponsor, a Staff Sargent from my new unit, met me and helped me get settled in my room.

I had an invite to his place later in the day for a barbecue and he left saying he would come back and pick me up later. I wandered around the wide open base. In those days RAF Mildenhall was pretty much open to the public. The only part of the base that was fenced off was the flight line area. Everything else was easily accessible by everyone.

At the edge of Mildenhall’s archaic base housing was a bus stop and a place called Mickey’s T bar. It boasted American style food and seating. I went in and ordered a double cheese burger. When the owner brought me the burger he pointed to an American style mustard bottle and said if I needed mustard on it, to help my self. I grabbed the squeezable bottle and lathered my cheese burger with mustard.

I then went to a table, sat down and took an enormous bite of instant fire. Eyes watering, I looked at the burger I’d just taken a bite out of in surprise. I hastily grabbed my can of coke and gulped the entire thing down in an effort to stop the burning in my mouth. I carefully put the cheeseburger down on my plate. I went back to the serving counter and bought another coke and asked why the burger was so damn hot.

The owner looked at me oddly and said, “Well of course it’s hot mate, I’ve only just cooked it.” I explained that I didn’t mean temperature hot, but spicy hot. He then started chuckling.

” You didn’t put mustard on did you?”

“Yeah,” I said, “Of course I did.”

“Well that’s not Yank mustard, mate. It’s English. We like our mustard a bit hotter than you lot like yours.” He continued chuckling to himself and after he sold me my second Coke stopped and thoughtfully rubbed his chin. “You know, I probably should mark the bloody thing. We get quite a few of you Yanks in here straight off the plane. Did you just get here?”

I nodded and he offered to make me another cheeseburger, no charge since I’d ‘ruined’ my first one. I said he didn’t have to do that, as I could  just scrape off the excessive amount of mustard that I had put on.  I finished my burger and wandered back to my room for a nap before the barbecue that afternoon.

My first day in England and already I’d learned two valuable  lessons. Not everything was what it seemed here and don’t put too much mustard on your burger.

English mustard.

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

6 thoughts on “An Arkansas Razorback in Queen Elizabeth Country”

  1. I pent a few months in England and Wales in 1979, then went back to Israel where I had settled. We are a odd bunch, we expat Americans. Eventually I wanted to go home and I knew home meant the USA. I was gone almost a decade, but I more than ever missed the seasons, old friends, and most of all, speaking English. Maybe you DO have the best of both worlds. Too bad more Americans never discover the world is not all a version of the US … We’d be better world citizens if we were a less provincial.


    1. Great comment and your point is well taken. Interestingly enough, I had almost forgotten I was American. It took a long overdue visit back state side over the 4th of July to remind me. I realised then that no matter where I lived I was still American. But I really have had the best of both worlds. 🙂


  2. Glad you enjoyed it, dude! I’ve been sitting here thinking of all the funny/stupid things that happened to me when I first moved here. I have quite a few more stories to relate… Cheers for the feedback. 😀


    1. I’m sure you do! 😀 Looking forward to hearing more in the future! My younger sister just flew from New York to Las Vegas today, and tomorrow she’s off to L.A. She’s never been to either before, and all I could think of were your stories from when you were living in CA. I’d be lying if I wasn’t a bit concerned. Anyway, good talking to you Mike!


      1. Sorry Josh, I just realised that I hadn’t replied to your last comment! *facepalm* I hope your little sis enjoys LA and all it’s charms. 🙂


  3. Haha Well Mike, I have to thank you for that, as I’ve really wanted to visit England for a few years now, and plan to hopefully sometime soon. I also load my burgers with mustard, and that would have really …sucked. Isn’t that typical? The ‘yank’ doesn’t know any better. That would have definitely been me, for sure. 🙂 England has always held a certain charm for me as well. History and mythology have been constant interests of mine, and considering my most direct ancestors were English, I’ve always wanted to see it. As you said, the ruins and the villages– all of it really. It’s strange, for all the pride I have in my American home, as I mentioned in my Blog article ‘Independence’, there is still something of a deep kinship I feel towards England. Although I’ve never been, and have no idea if direct relatives even live there any longer. I can’t help but feel like English history is a part of my own. Well, I guess it is considering the colonists were once English. lol Anyway, thanks again for the heads up! Articles like this are really interesting to me, not that your reviews aren’t, because they definitely are, but personal experiences like these are fascinating, even if it’s something as simple as putting too much ‘British’ mustard on your cheesburger! 🙂 If or when I get to England, you’ll have to show me the ropes! Haha Take care Mike!


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