Page last updated at 12:41 GMT, Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Party time for Americans in UK

By Lisa Mitchell
BBC News

Maurice Berk with US flag painted on head
People wore their party colours with pride

"I've lived in Europe for 15 years and didn't feel American any more. Tonight I feel all American."

Lori Demori was among the 300,000 Americans watching their country vote from British shores.

At parties around the UK, they watched the election unfold minute by minute alongside their countryfolk thousands of miles away.

For writer Lori, watching Barack Obama win was like coming home.

"That brash hopefulness I loved about America is on its way back. Seeing people's faces looking hopeful is quite moving.

"I just want to keep enjoying it. When we look back, this is going to be something that was big."

Polling day thrill

At the US Embassy in central London, the staff had done their best to make it feel like home.

Sheila Jamieson, Prestige and Ashleigh Williamson (l-r)

The visa department was temporarily festooned with red, white and blue banners. The front of the ugly, stark building, peppered with flashing stars and stripes.

And throughout the building was the stuffy smell of frying fat from the Burger King stall, set up to keep partygoers going all night.

For them, their voting day was long ago, when they posted their absentee ballots.

Ambassador Robert Tuttle missed the physical thrill on polling day of going down the street to the garage attached to his neighbour's house and casting his vote.

Under some strange regulation in California, almost anyone can set up a polling station. Anywhere.

"We used to have one in our car showroom in Tustin, Orange County," the ambassador said.

"We'd just move the cars over and open the showroom's doors."

Singing and jazz

The excitement surrounding this election was reflected by the embassy hosting its biggest election night bash.

Two thousand Americans and British friends were entertained by glee clubs and jazz bands, until there was only one focus in the room as the votes came in.

People wore their party colours with pride but the rivalry was good-natured.

It hadn't always been like that for Democrat Deana Puccio Ferraro.

I'm torn because I'm aware how much the rest of the world wanted Obama
Fred Gander

"Most of my closest friends are Republicans. We can't even talk about it. It's been pretty contentious!"

However, her friend and Republican Fred Gander took it well as state after state fell to Obama.

"It's very disappointing," said the lawyer from Ohio.

"Ohio hasn't voted Democrat for years but I could tell when I was home in September, it was a toss up. And that was before the economic problems."

He has always voted Republican but living abroad has changed how he views his country.

"I'm torn because I'm aware how much the rest of the world wanted Obama," he said.

Deanna Puccio Ferraro and Fred Gander
Democrats and Republicans watched the results side-by-side

Cuban Arnaldo Hernandez Diaz thinks his country has a lot to teach President Obama.

Referring to a Republican attempt to persuade voters that Obama wanted to turn the US socialist like Cuba, Mr Diaz did not see any problem.

"Our system is better than theirs! I think Obama will be good for Cuba."

Democratic confidence truly began to grow after Ohio went to Obama.

Many had begun the night saying they barely dared to hope it could happen, despite the most recent polls pointing to victory.

"It's a foregone conclusion now," said statistics student Maurice Berk, who had painted a US flag on the side of his shaved head.

'Yes, we can'

In Edinburgh, Gregor Dodson, from San Francisco, watched at home with his wife after trying to get into the university's student union to watch, but it was too full.

"It's a massive place and it was packed with non-Americans. It's amazing."

At the East Room bar in Shoreditch, London, Americans were joined by Australians, Scots and Canadians, all gripped by election fever.

Sheila Jamieson would vote Obama - if only she was American.

"I'm Scottish but I do a lot of work in America so what's happening there directly affects me."

As the night draws on, Sheila shares her recipe for staying awake: Vodka espresso martinis.

Obama may have won the election, but for drag queen Prestige, there is another outstanding winner.

Already a favourite in her routine, Prestige says Sarah Palin is so recognisable because she is a "slave to her image".

Her future, according to Prestige, is in reality TV.

"Or she'll sell jewellery on QVC."

Back at the embassy, the future of the Democratic candidates is assured.

The party rings out with Obama's anthem: "Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can!"

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