With a recent report that Brexit talks are teetering on the brink of failure — and if that’s the case, the U.K. will officially leave the European Union in April — the country is receiving a lot of unwanted publicity.
This is also a good time to remember that British people are pretty great at devising British-esque things to do to help outsiders feel better about the situation. And one such thing is to live the British dream: Marriage.
My brother and I celebrated Thanksgiving together last year and this year our parents are renting a large house in North Yorkshire. Our new neighbors are still on vacation and the owner won’t let us stay until Friday.
On Friday, our neighbour, Ralph, came over to our house. “Sorry, I thought you were an American,” he says, laughing at his confusion. “Are you here to get married?”
“Oh, no. I’m with my wife.”
“Oh, no,” he says. “Are you related to Prince Charles?” He’s clearly amused.
Later, Ralph explains that my wife is his sister-in-law. “I’m so sorry about your President Donald Trump joke. I know you meant it to be funny.”
After hearing about America’s massive refugee crisis and Trump’s proposed wall along the Mexican border, I didn’t think of Ralph in that light. But all this being England and all, Ralph just couldn’t help it.
My wife is from Brighton, on England’s south coast. She got married in 1989, in her late 20s, and has three sons, ages 20, 22 and 25. My wife is the eldest. She got divorced a few years ago, but she and Ralph have been married for 20 years. He’s 48 and she’s 47. They don’t have any grandchildren but they would be great grandparents.
It’s true they’re from a different country, but my bride’s family has been wonderful. Whenever my kids visit, she and Ralph usually spend a few days together. They see a lot of their kids’ friends, and they plan to have another wedding some day. They’ve even spent several Christmases at our house with our family.
When they find out I live in Virginia, my wife’s family tells them I went to America because I’m a spy and work for the British secret service.
“Are you a secret agent?” they say.
“No,” I say. “I’m a computer engineer.”
They laugh. Ralph’s sister came to visit him in America, and Ralph got another surprise. While his sister was visiting, another British couple tried to hit on her. Her fiancé heard all about this and told them to back off. He didn’t recognize them, and they weren’t from Brighton. “In Britain, it’s rude to talk that way to a woman,” my wife told me later.
They finally agreed to leave, but she said she’d tell them later.
For many months, Ralph has been relentlessly questioning whether we’re related to the Queen. Why not ask him if he’s still hanging out with the royal family?
“I wasn’t,” he says when he sees me. “He was just messing with you.”