The question is asked:
Why DO US megastars Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and George Clooney prefer the UK to California?
The answer is actually quite simple, and it’s one of the reasons why I love going there too.
The pat answers, of course, are manifold — especially in the case of the above reptiles — and the first, obviously, is that anywhere in Yurp (including Britishland) is preferable to the shithole that California has become, especially when the said reptiles are also filthy rich and can buy things like “cottages” on the Thames River or castles in Devon; and being all part of the same mutual admiration society, they can also count on their buddies to put them up for a day or week.
Then they can play the part of the “locals”, and go to quaint little pubs and tearooms and drink “pints” and drink PG Tips tea, go to Wimbledon and thus hobnob with all their precious little Hollywood buddies also visiting “for the occasion”.
And if the weather turns shitty (as it sometimes does in Britishland), they can simply jump into a first-class seat on an airliner and head off to, oh, Cannes, Como or Malibu.
The thing is, it’s very easy to fall in love with the U.K. under those circumstances. All that British stuff and the matchless beauty of the countryside is like one big theme park, and it is just how it’s described: charming, quaint and pretty.
And I haven’t even touched on the history, the kind one experiences when finding out that people have been worshipping in a little stone church since the 12th century, or stumbling across some broken clay pots from the Bronze Age in a field somewhere, or seeing the outline of a Roman road winding across an impossibly-green meadow where now a flock of snow-white sheep are grazing contentedly, safe from predators like lions, bears or even wolves.
It’s a gentle country, so unlike the harshness of the U.S. — and especially so when one is living in a wealthy cocoon like Clooney or Depp. And it’s really easy to love a place when you’re not forced to live there as a native: by family tradition, work or heritage.
If I sound familiar with the topic, it’s because I feel exactly the same way, having spent weeks and months living in Britishland, whether in Wiltshire at Mr. Free Market’s country house or The Englishman’s farm or in the latter’s cottage in an impossibly-beautiful Cornish seaside village. After the first couple of weeks I was last there, I found myself browsing the real estate listings, wondering just how I could perhaps buy a little cottage in Devizes or Burton-on-Trent or Norton St. Philip or… or… or…
And if I had the wealth of the Cooneys, Depps, Cruises or their ilk, I would have done exactly what they have done.
Here’s the problem, though. As I discovered, at some point you get sick of living in a foreign country, even one as pleasant as Britishland. At some point, you get sick of the high prices (Brits are ripped off more than tourists in Manhattan, and it happens all the time); sick of the tiny little roads that are so picturesque, and such a huge pain in the ass to use when you need to get somewhere in a hurry; sick of the class- and wealth envy that you see every day on TV and hear in conversations in those quaint little pubs that serve delicious bitter ale, at £6 ($7.70) a pint.
You get sick of the stupid TV — oh, don’t get fooled by Downton Abbey or Midsomer Murders: those are the very few jewels scattered around in the dreck and swill of Strictly Come Dancing, Love Island, TOWIE, the empty-headed morning TV hosts, and Piers Morgan.
And you get sick of how primitive the place is — a place which has simultaneously the best newspapers in the world and the worst Internet service (unless you live in London). A place where you can wait a week for an electrician to come and fix your plug outlets, or where train service can be interrupted for days on end by chilly weather (!), not to mention the frequent strikes of the pampered working class. Where a lowly bureaucrat can stop you putting up a privacy fence on your property, or after you’ve put it up, tell you to take it down because it’s six inches too high.
You’ll get sick of the petty crime that abounds everywhere — even in those postcard-pretty villages — and the indifference of the police to the problem.
And yes, you get sick of the weather, eventually. Even those who prefer cooler temperatures and overcast skies will get sick of the ceaseless drizzle, the chill that seeps into your bones, and the inability of your clothes to ever dry out properly. Like Seattle, only twenty degrees colder. Why else would Britain boast the largest per-capita percentage of expats who move to Spain, Portugal, France and gawd help us Australia, in ever-increasing numbers?
None of this matters to our celebrity part-time Brits, because their careers take them off to film sets in California or Colorado where they can become, once again, Americans.
I still miss the place, terribly. I just don’t want to live there.