Friday, March 4, 2011


My great-grandma Beatrice, for whom I am named, came over from England at the turn of the last century, on her own I was told, at the age of 17. Family lore has it that she arrived at the port of Oakland, and, upon setting foot ashore, remarked at how San Francisco wasn't as grand as she thought it would be. (Whenever I think of grandma Bea's supposed response to Oak-town, I am reminded of Gertrude Stein's (in)famous quote, "There's no there there.")

Bea died, in her 90s, in 1975. I have no recollection of her, sadly. I do, however, have a pink baby blanket that she knitted for me when I was born. Also in possession is a wall mirror given to her from prominent, local attorney Melvin Belli for whom she had once worked, and a beautiful, wooden, side table topped with colorful tile dating back to So. California circa 1920s.

Here is a "cousin" table image I found online:

Among the heirlooms passed down from Bea are bits of language that our family used when I was growing up. It was not until I was out on my own, that I realized most other American folk didn't share these words. Chief among them is "surname."

Today, at HSBC, EMM and I filled out paperwork enabling us to open up a checking/savings acct. in London. Our "wealth adviser", or whatever his title was, graciously explained how to fill out said forms the correct way for the UK branch to process them. "Surname", we were told, meant "last name." I resisted the urge to blurt out, "I know!" "'DD/MM/YYYY' is how it's written in the UK," he further explained. I know that, too, I whispered in my head.

Having forgotten to bring both our passports and a bill with our names and address on the envelope, we're set to return tomorrow for more form-filling "cheerio pip-pip" sort of fun.


  1. !@#$% !! Good luck! I opened an account at HSBC, waited about 17 days for my bank card to show up, hiked the two miles back to there (I was in Hackney/Clapton), only to find out that "HSBC" didn't just stand for Her Slow Bank Card"... it stood for Her Sucky Bank Company 'cause the dumb asses mailed my bank card to AMERICA (WTF?!) They cancelled the card, and said they'd reissue a new one... 14 days later, no card, I walked back... they never bothered to cancel the old card or send the new one (again, WTF?!)... so I canceled my account & took all my money back then & there. T'was REALLY annoying. I truly hope your experiences are better!
    London is an amazing city, enjoy! (Where in London are you staying while there? Or did you manage a British passport and are staying?)

    PS. I thought everyone knew what "surname" meant/means?! Weird.

  2. Girl! I think that I recall your post about the lameness of HSBC. Ugh! Yeah, our man at the branch here in NYC wasn't too sure how we should even be filling out the paperwork because it's quite different from the US forms. Sammy, a Briton working at this branch, was repeatedly asked to come over to help in clarifying what it was that we were supposed to fill in and how. Fingers crossed that all will be right and we'll have bank cards sent to the right address!
    We're looking to live in either Hackney or Islington. Alas, I don't have a British passport. However, the work contract of my partner is for approx. 3 years, so, assumming I don't have a freak out and leave, I'll be there for the duration.
    "Surname" is any easy one. It's also lame to be told that "football" means "soccer". Not all Americans just fell off the turnip truck yesterday.

  3. Hackney is not too bad, there are some great areas, but there is no quick & easy access to the tube once you get north of Homerton Hospital/east of Chatsworth Rd. There ARE buses (which are rather efficient), but I'd highly recommend sticking closer to 'Hackney Central' if public transit & easy access to it is what you're looking for. Though, walkin' a mile or so isn't bad at all... I think I'm biased 'cause it was FREEZING there this winter and walking there in the frigid cold was Just. Not. Fun.
    I'd recommend Islington over Hackney/Clapton, though... I do have a soft spot for Hackney due to the BF living there (yes, we are still pretty much together 'cause that whole "absence makes the heart grow fonder" thing is annoyingly true... whatchagonnado?)

    As for football, I grew up having to tell entirely too many people "no, they mean the game you call soccer"... 'cause while a lot of Americans may not have fallen off the turnip truck, quite a few of them missed the ride all together ;p

    You're gonna have a blast!


A piece of your mind here: