I’m from Los Angeles. While visiting Salisbury a lady asked me to call her a Dirty Cunt. This is the second half of that story.  In case you started reading here, you could consider going back to the beginning.  But if you’re pressed for time, or just don’t want to read all 8 essays cause you don’t care all that much, here’s the gist:

I’m a filmmaker living in Los Angeles. A film I made was accepted at the Raindance International Film Festival in London, England.  Having never really been abroad,  I decided to check out a bit of Europe.  My first stop: Salisbury.   Thousands of miles from home,  I decided to have a very English experience and went to a club and went to a very English club and they very much played Beyonce.

This is not an anomaly.  During the course of this trip I will visit 4 countries that speak 4 different languages.  In each country, within minutes of entering any bar or club I will inevitably hear Beyonce.   You can divide the number of minutes you spent  in the club by the number of minutes you waited before hearing Beyonce.  A larger number means there were more songs, a smaller number means there was more Beyonce.  If, upon entering a club, Beyonce is already playing, that would mean the number of minutes is 0, and you can’t divide by zero, without getting infinity. The Infinity Beyonce. Regardless, every club has a Beyonce Quotient, and this number is lower than I would’ve ever feared thought.  It’s not just music though, movies suffer from the same problem.

I went to a Sainsbury’s (CVS) in London and the movie section looked just like the movie sections in the states.  Really.  There wasn’t even a token copy of “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” or anything.  Just Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as far as the eye could see. Later, the joy I had upon seeing my first double decker bus was immediately crushed when it drove by, revealing a giant poster for The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Then it clicked.

America is the court jester of the world.

We don’t see ourselves that way.  Our self-esteem is uh… healthy.  It’s not like we’re swimming in Flags and Eagles, but we’re not NOT swimming in them either.  If you asked most Americans where’s the best place in the world to live, they wouldn’t hesitate to say “America.”  (And in some of the scarier places they might say “‘Murica”).  Due to the recent influx of Mexicans, Americans have this weird belief that the rest of the world is *also* eager to scale our walls, but don’t because there’s an ocean between us. 

It’s not true. The rest of the world is like Canada.  Perfectly content where they are.

Huge chunks of the world have no interest in any of our Eagles, or Flags and really only check in with us long enough to say “HEY AMERICA, DANCE FOR US! SING US A SONG! SHOW US YOUR FX!”, and, hungry for attention we do, while mumbling “Hey our democracy is up HERE.”

They roll their eyes, point at our education system and our healthcare situation and our not-so-metric system, plug their fingers in their ears and sing Drunk in Love. Touché. <– Also very European.

So I’m here in Salisbury (population 45,000). Spitting distance from Stonehenge and The Magna Carta, if you are a pretty great spitter, otherwise it’s driving distance. Everything is driving distance if you’re patient enough. You can drive across England in the time it takes to drive from Miami, FL to Panama City,FL.

(God, even the concept of spitting distance seems distastefully American.   “Is it close?” One cowboy says to the other “I dunno, can y’spit on it?”)

9 hours can take you from Miami to Panama City.
Or all the way across England to Scotland.

You know….the British are known to be remarkably polite.  I wonder if that’s just a function of…proximity.  If you make an ass of yourself in Swindon, you can’t move too far away from the scene without changing your nationality.  It’d be inconvenient to have a massive falling out with someone and realize that yes, you can move and start a new life, but yes, that life is going to be Scottish.

If I live in North Dakota,  I can act like an asshole and piss off everyone in North Dakota. Then I can just move to South Dakota and start a new life without learning a new accent or changing my passport. I’ll probably already know my way around town.


Bismarck to Rapid City

Meanwhile, at the club.

The not so Magna Carter’s wife is just killing it. People are singing along, and while the song is cute with an English accent, it’s not the wild foreign experience I’d signed up for. It felt a lot like being in New York. Or Gainesville. Or Las Vegas.  Or Berlin.  Why is Beyonce so popular here, I think, she’s ours! Don’t they have their own Beyonce?  (“We gave you Adele, Ed Sheehan, and Jessie J, so ease up.” – Great Britain)

Just when I reach inner peace with our joint custody of Beyonce, the next song comes on and this one kills them the exact same way and confuses me even more.  It’s not that I didn’t like the song. I did. Everyone did. It went to #3 on Billboard (Both in the US and UK) and was certified gold. I know every word.  It’s just surprising because there’s been a lot of music in the fifteen years since clubs went nuts over Nelly’s “Ride Wit Me.”

In the beginning of the movie Contact, there’s a sequence where the camera pulls out to space and you hear all of the transmissions that Earth has ever sent out.  The first couple transmissions are recent, grunge music, spice girls, etc. By the time you get out to the furthest edge of our galaxy the skips are larger, from MLK’s speech to music from the 20s.  Maybe our popular music is like that.  By the time it’s (SLAP ME) crossed the pond, 1999 and 2014 are basically the same.

I’m immediately jealous.  We place such a high value on newness with our music in the states. If a song isn’t so old that it’s a classic or so new that the artist is still learning the words then we’ll boo or we’ll pout or we’ll climb into the booth and slit the DJs throat for not having the latest s@#t.

It’s a shame though,  there are songs I would rock out to RIGHT NOW that just aren’t old enough to be cool again.  So for a moment it’s refreshing to be in a place that seems to like music without worrying about whether or not we’ve decided it’s okay (or not) to listen to that music.


(The King’s Head Inn. Ever been to a bar where there’s pictures from a history book on the wall? Just portraits of kings. Classy. Not even one girl in a bikini. I’ve been to bars where the walls were JUST naked girls. Ripped from adult magazines. True story.)

We make our way upstairs, and there’s tables and… no bouncers. It’s nice, comfortable even.  No one tells us we need to move. No one says you need to order food to sit here.  No one cares at all.  I want to turn to the Blokes/FemaleBlokes around me and say “Do you know how many pounds it would’ve cost just to sit here if we were in Los Angeles? Well I don’t know either because I’m bad at converting, but trust me, you wouldn’t like it.”

My girlfriend and I hang out for a bit and then decide we need to go someplace even MORE local.  I want someplace British. Some place COVERED in Union Jacks, someplace with people singing “I’m Henry the Eighth I am” while mugs filled with mead slosh in every hand, the menu has nothing but fish, and chips, and bangers, and mash, and fish covered in chips and bangers filled with mash-flavored-fish-chips. A place so British that I’ll worry that they’re going to re-colonize America right there starting with me.

BLOKE:  Hey you, in the dreads. Yeah, you. You just got colonized.
ME:  I’m intrigued, but honestly man that sounds a LOT like Slavery.
BLOKE: It’s not Slavery.
ME: Ok….Does this mean I’m British now?
BLOKE: Right-O, mate!
ME: Hell, yeah! I’m in. This bar is —
Bloke clears his throat in a very polite English way.
ME: — this pub, excuse me, this pub is the best. Hail the Queen! Oasis 4ever.

Clearly I don’t know what I’m looking for, but I know it’s not Beyonce mixed with Nelly.  So we soldier on.

The next club looks so much like so many other bars that I take a video just because I know when I get back I won’t believe it.


So very much the same, but so different because there’s a -garden- that the sign is inviting us to go partake in.  Here, come  to the garden… this way. Yonder. Through to Garden. And then we’ll have a bit of tea.  Here… in the Gaaaarden.

American bars don’t have Gardens.  It’s just a sweaty box where you get groped and lung cancer. No Garden.  If you’re lucky there’s a patio.  But it’s never presented as “Through to Patio.”  It’s more “Fuck you, yeah there’s a patio here, try not to puke on anyone.”

We go Through to Garden.

People are smoking, drinking, talking to friends.  We didn’t have friends so we sat at a table and made friends.

The conversation was nice. Having grown up in a small town I’m intimately familiar with the small town list of grievances.  Salisbury, which is lovingly called Smallsbury, is “too small” and “everyone is in everyone’s business” and “I know everyone here” and “there’s nothing to do.”  It’s the exact inverse of the LA list of grievances “It’s too big” and “Everyone is a stranger” and “I think I’m carrying Adrien Brody’s baby.”

Someone asked for a cigarette and when the box of cigarettes appeared I laughed out loud. At that moment I learned that while America might not hate me, England definitely likes her people more.

Cigarettes cause cancer which causes death. This is the warning sign, mandated by the US Government, on the back of a pack of cigarettes.

So much reading. No one has time for this. No one.

In England, and much of the EU it turns out, the warnings look like this.


It does -what- you say?

I don’t laugh though because I can’t, in my inebriated state, explain how great it is that these things are so honest about their lethality.  Not to someone who is currently being lethal’ed by them, anyway. It seems wrong, and I put a lot of energy into at least seeming like a nice person.  So much so that midway through the conversation, the lady I’m speaking to interrupts me abruptly and says “You seem like a nice guy.”

The conversation had gotten off to a rocky start. We started talking about relationships, because that’s my jam, and then she said something that I thought meant “relationships get a little rough” but then she said something which made me think that her relationship got physically Rough.

“I am a nice guy.” I say to her, happy to steer the conversation away from domestic violence.

“You’re probably too nice.” she says, except with her accent it comes out as something you want your neighbors to turn down.  Turn down all that NOICE, we’re trying to sleep. You might say.

This was very clearly a trap.  I figured I’m a garden so things couldn’t go that badly. “Too nice for what?”

“Call me a dirty cunt,” she says.

Have you ever studied a foreign language?

The books are filled with chapters on what you should say in common circumstances when you’re abroad.

Chapter 1 is Greetings. (“Hi. What’s Your Name? Where are you from?”).  Chapter 2 is The Restaurant (“I’d like to have some water.”) Chapter 3 The Train Station (“Where is the terminal?”).

I took about dos years of espanol, and un semestre of French, but I don’t remember anything about what to do when someone asks you to call them a cunt, dirty or otherwise.

I give a panicked look across the table at my girlfriend, fearing that she’s hearing all the wrong greatest hits of this conversation “…you’re nice….i’m nice….cunt.”  What could she possibly think?

Furthermore,  I’m pretty clear I’ve never even said that word in front of her at this point.  She’s wrapped up in conversation with DirtyCuntLady’s friend. (In the world of nicknames there is nothing worse than Dirty Cunt Lady. I’ll admit it, but it’s just the only shorthand that works for you and I right now, right? You know I’m not *actually* casting aspersions about any part of this lady’s vagina right? It’s just about the request? Cool? Cool.)

Feeling pressured — I think she’s trying to trick me into getting kicked out of the pub or something,  I try but I just… I can’t.  I just can’t find it in myself to call her a dirty cunt. It seems wrong in every possible way.  I just won’t. I …c(u/a)n’t.

Instead I challenge her, thinking she’ll back off and we can get back to talking about cigarettes, “Okay, you call me a fucking wanker!” I say, feeling triumphant.

I had barely finished saying “wanker” before she says, with glee “YOU FUCKING WANKER!”

Emboldened, I yelled “YOU DIRTY CUNT!”

The table froze. My girlfriend was shocked. She spun and called my name, assuming that this is what it looked like right before you got kicked out of England, on your very first day.

Without missing a beat the lady turned to my girlfriend and the rest of the table and announced “Ahahaha I am a cunt,” then she smiled and added “But I’m a lovely one.”

This is not a garden. This is a patio. This is Salisbury. I fucking love it.

Last Week: The Part before this part.
Next Week: StoneHenge I guess?

I promise that I will NEVER sell or share your email. If I do, you can come punch me in the face as long and hard as you want. I would deserve it.



53 thoughts on “Travel #8: Salisbury Part II – the second, longer, part about that lady who asked me to call her a dirty cunt.

  1. Thank u!i couldnt wait,ive lived in Smallsbury for over11yrs and although i luv me hometown Smallsbury is special???? plus the part of your blog on Accents..lovely .couldnt stop laughing..i was equally amazed on how many times English person can apologise in one sentence ha ha luv it .regards????

    1. You guys have apologies down to an art. I mean, you’ll even say things like “Apologies.” That’s a real word. Americans don’t say “I’m sorry” unless they follow it up with something like “…that you can’t seem to follow simple instructions.” It’s brutal.

  2. So the little incident was in theHaunch of Venison if it was across the chicken place ha ha..upstairs theres a hand of a guy who had it chopped off for cheating playin cards apparently????

    1. Yans right.. They are brill.. funniest thing I’ve read in a while.. even funnier as we’re from salisbury! Love how many of my friends from different parts of my life are commenting. .. deffo smallsbury (said in that lovely rural accent of ours!) ????

  3. Ha the video was in spoons I think? I live in Salisbury and love your posts very funny and very true, most nights out in Salisbury r like this. Look forward to more posts to come xx

  4. I’m really enjoying these blogs – or as we would say in England, totes halarious! ???? great perspective of our little city! I’ve lived in salisbury for 10 years and yes people who have lived here forever call it smallsbury but it’s why I love it! Quaint little salisbury in the day, then everyone loses the plot at the weekend.
    The photos outside ‘blacks’ and ‘white stuff’ are brilliant. And I can honestly say that’s never occurred to me before, that those shop names could be considered weird! Now I’m looking at our art gallery, named ‘black sheep’ galleries in a whole new giggly light! Keep them coming!

  5. I love your blog on our lovely little city of Salisbury and your musings on the English way of life its so typically ‘American’ and quite funny

  6. I’m loving these articles about Salisbury I’ve moved a bus ride from Salisbury about a year ago from Scotland I haven’t I ventured there much yet I must say I’m loving your blog giving me a different view on Salisbury love it!!!

  7. Haha you we to to some of the worst bars in salisbury. I generally steer clear of places that play Beyoncé etc.. I have loved in the area my whole life and I love salisbury, it’s a beautiful place just sadly filled with a lot of chavs. X

  8. Hah. I love it. I work in Salisbury and occasionally visit it at night for a vague attempt of having a social life. Please tell me you went to The Chapel. I need to know your thoughts on The Chapel.

  9. Haha u were in the cathedral hotel… Sounds like a typical drunk salisbury convo..but i actually did LOL reading this deffo a gd read and a gd way to start the day… Well done salisbury for showing your true colors..its pretty embarrassing really but it is what it is i guess

  10. This is great – I’m from a very small town very near Stonehenge called Larkhill, though now live in London, so Salisbury was my nearest sign of life.. very amusing read. My Mum will love this blog post, so when you make it to Stonehenge (it’s a bit crap, sorry) if you go past Larkhill and stop in at the Post Office, there’s a cup of tea waiting for you :) Happy Travels!

  11. This is fantastic!
    Lots of the pubs here have a “garden” now because of the smoking ban. FYI: the Kings Head is a chain, and usually considered to be one of the rougher pubs in town! I do hope you went to some others as well!

  12. You must see a film at the Odeon-the cinema foyer is like Harry Potter’s great hall in Hogwarts (it’s a medieval building).
    Don’t listen to anything negative about Stonehenge-it’s absolutely incredible!
    Come to Alderbury and visit the Green Dragon pub-Dickens stayed there and noone’s ever asked anyone to call them a dirty c-word. Not that I’ve ever heard anyway.

  13. I miss Salisbury now!

    It been a while since I was out in there, but I fondly remember the Wyndham Arms, Royal George, Anchor and Hope, and the Old Ale House. Great pubs well worth a visit!

    If you want to try something utterly English have a go at Bell Ringing while you’re over.

  14. Absolutely brilliant, a friend from Salisbury shared this and now I’m hooked. Glad you got to visit somewhere that’s not London too. I also have Jamaican family, visit a fair few film festivals but have a rubbish accent that’s almost northern. Did you manage to get up the midlands at all? Apologies, i’ll stop waffling, looking forward to the next part!

  15. Tips for visiting Stonehenge:

    1) Try to arrive before 10am, because that’s before all the coachloads of bucket listers get there.

    2) Keep an eye out for Siobhan, the Stonehenge shaman who visits often, and is usually either in the exhibition or at the monument. You’ll recognise her easily, she carries a goat-headed staff called Capricorn.

    3) Talk to the stewards who look after the place on a daily basis – there’ll be a couple of them on the path by the monument. Some of them are quite, quite mad.

    4) Expect it to be cold, muddy and with a fierce wind.

    5) Best photos are taken from the southeast side of the monument, looking up-slope.

    6) Don’t say “It’s smaller than I imagined” or they’ll set the druids on you.

  16. Great read …. if you think “Smallsbury” is bad you want to try coming from “Shamesbury!” I expect you passed through it on your way to Stonehenge!

  17. Great read, I went right back to no. 1. Phil, you follow in the footsteps of the great Bill Bryson. May you visit these small islands often and continue to enjoy ‘Travelling’. X

  18. I miss Smallsbury so much right now. Not that I really ever saw this side of it! Alderbury is.. Okay, I can’t lie, it’s a bit rubbish, but in lived there for 15 years and it’s my baby.

  19. Brilliant stuff Phil, love it – will be tuning back in to catch up with your travel experiences.

    To give you some more random history, that you may have stumbled across, that pub “The Haunch of Venison” in your photo in #6… the story goes, among many other stories about it, that this is where Churchill and Roosevelt discussed the plans for D-Day.

    Salisbury’s is home, its the very middle of the middle of England. Middle class, middle England. At our last general election (when we vote for the government), I remember one of the many statistics wheeled out was that Salisbury was the highest net spend per capita at Tesco’s. Tesco is the big player in supermarkets in the UK… think Walmart. And it was something bizarre like 70% of all money spent in retail in Salisbury went into a Tesco’s till. Now, as any self-respecting Salisbury resident will tell you… we have 2 supermarkets (there are others, but they don’t really count)…. we have Tesco and Waitrose.

    Waitrose, in the UK, is the aspirational supermarket, very expensive, when you walk in its all flat screen tvs, soft furnishings, freshly baked bread; staffed by “partners” rather than employees. Not sure if there is a US alternative. I can imagine that Waitrose is a VERY British place… in your time in Salisbury, you may have even seen it or heard it mentioned.

    How do these relate? Well, you ask ANYONE in Salisbury where they do their shopping and the resounding will ALWAYS be Waitrose. So, who’s spending all that money in Tesco’s??? This is Salisbury. Love it.

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