Brit Storms Fort of Lauderdale

On January 6, 2012 by Jonathan Bright

Fort Lauderdale can be a funny place for a Brit. We export droves of citizens on these sunny coastal Florida holidays every year only for them to go and sit, once again, amongst themselves – albeit sporting a perma-glow, and a smile, one would hope. Of course, many are never to be seen again.

Indeed walking around the more tourist areas of the state you often hear nothing but English accents, which makes us do one of two things: either hunger for a pure slice of American pie, or become ultra-British. Which in my case would probably involve breaking out the Pimms & Lemonade, and punting through a 20-foot barrel wave in a bowler hat.

Thankfully for our American compatriots I generally opt for the former. I like America and I like Americans. I like being told to have a nice day, and I particularly like that they particularly like the Limeys.

Unfortunately after being exposed to a quarter of a century of Richard Curtis films us British boys have been starkly aware of our supposed popularity with the American ladies, and are quite keen to accentuate our more well-documented traits. Nervous stuttering, and an endearing overuse of the platitudes “um, crikey”, for example.

I went to Fort Lauderdale once to report on a pharmaceuticals conference there in its ridiculously oversized convention centre, and being alone I craved a bit of America and its generally unassuming warmth of welcome. One company credit card, some lobster and several drinks later and this quickly became just another primal lust for attention. So I exited the pastel web of waterways making up this, the ‘Venice of America’ – although perhaps sharing more in common with the disproportionately-sized Venetian hotel in Las Vegas – where the boats are bigger than the houses and sometimes even the canals in which they permanently sit, and headed for the beaches known best for the eponymous Spring Break.

Unfortunately for me, this was the night the Navy boys came home from a tour in Afghanistan. And for the same reason it was also the night I worked out why Lauderdale was called a Fort, yet apparently had neglected to build any turrets or carve out a single arrowslit.

Fort Lauderdale

It was a bit like that scene in Top Gun, each bar spilling its guts of pristine, pressed naval outfits and blindingly white hats. I thought maybe singing You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling on karaoke might get me noticed, and then promptly figured they might think I was poking fun. And let’s face it who worse to chase you out of the pub than the entire Marine Corps?

In any case, the sailors were in, and indeed consumed, good spirits, and hearty messages of goodwill and thanks for a job well done came from every proprietor, punter and performer around.

Certainly it was true carnival atmosphere dressed in very few colours, but you can be absolutely sure that when that boat comes in, the girls aren’t checking out the British guy anymore.

Instead I wandered gingerly back to the hotel where one of the barflies pointed out at length how much better the UK’s system for governmental accountability is than the US. I’ve never felt so proud.