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Mad Dogs and Englishmen...
England in general
Member Name: spacelamb
England in general
Date: 03/09/01, updated on 03/09/01 (256 review reads)
I have a social disability.
I am not a gossip (all the time) or a wallflower or a usurper or a space invader or a bigamist. It’s much more serious than that. I don’t like tea, and in polite English society this is about the worst crime you can commit. My best friend’s dad still refers to me as “the one who doesn’t drink tea” (followed by an incredulous chuckle) although he has known me by name for eleven years. I think if I had stolen a family heirloom on our first meeting I might have been forgiven by now, but the fact that I refused a cup of tea has led to him eyeing me suspiciously every time I enter their home. The English, you see, are nothing short of insane.
To drink tea is to be an upstanding citizen and a good egg. We believe that a cup of tea will cure all ills (“you’ve severed your own arm, poor love, I’ll pop the kettle on”) and greatly distrust anyone who rejects the stuff. Have you ever seen a Bond baddie with a brew? Of course you haven’t.
Anyway, this is a highly sophisticated study of ‘England in General’ not ‘Tea in General’. So on with the show.
The English do a lot of things really well. I’m proud of our language, our history, our culture and our Government. No, honestly. I love living here. I love the eccentric quirks of the English nature, but most of all I love the stereotypes applied to us: that we live on a diet of fish paste sandwiches (yum – McWho?), that we love nothing better than queuing in the rain in our frog wellingtons, that all the ladies wear smart overcoats and all the gentlemen bowler hats. But of course we do. Here is a Guide To Blighty for the uninitiated.
* * HISTORY * *
I was going to attempt to write a potted history of our green and pleasant land, but realised the futility of the exercise after about 30 seconds when I happed upon this glorious website:
It has everything you could possibly want to know and a good deal more besides, so I’ll leave the history to the historians. Phew.
* * POLITICS * *
I’ll keep this section short as well. I just think our Government gets far too much stick (and I’m not just saying that because I’m a civil servant and I want a quiet life). There are weasel-y and corrupt individuals, as in any profession, but as a system it *does* work. We have justice and freedom and opportunity and relative safety, which is a darn sight more than most nations have achieved. They’re acting like asses over the whole tube thing though. End of politics.
* * LANGUAGE * *
Did you know that thesauruses (thesauri?) don’t exist outside of the English-speaking world? No other language is rich or diverse enough to require one, and that makes me feel very smug indeed. The flipside to this of course is our reluctance to learn other languages (preferring instead to shout and gesticulate). I once saw this book called The Englishman’s International Dictionary (or something along those lines), which featured pictures of things like airports and plates of egg and chips, eradicating the need to learn any new holiday vocabulary at all. When in Rome (etc), the Englishman can simply whip this slim volume from his blazer pocket and point.
English is a marvellous language. It is also completely illogical (I’m damn happy I grew up with it), yet the most widely spoken in the world. It would be nice to believe that this is down to its sheer beauty, or the wealth of great literature the English have produced, but the truth is that we owe the Yanks big time. America has global clout we can only dream of (but no past and no queen and no Barbour jackets). If you have a spare hour or two, read Bill Bryson’s ‘Mother Tongue’, which must be the only entertaining book on linguistics ever written.
* * ARTS * *
Literature and the arts in general are things that the English excel at. Our great artists, past and present, embody the madness of the nation. J M W Turner strapped himself to the mast of a boat and set out into a rather choppy sea, nearly killing himself in the process, in order to accurately paint the ferocity of the waves. Tracey Emin has made a huge personal fortune by exhibiting her unmade bed (complete with used condoms, tissues and dirty underwear) and embroidering a quilt with a list of all the people she has ever slept with. (I often wonder whether she keeps it up to date, and how many prospective partners this has put off.)
Our fashion designers too are among the most celebrated in the world, which is hard to believe when you consider that we invented the spotted-handkerchief-tied-around-head beach look, the Essex Girl and the Sloane. But our erratic tendencies seem to go down well abroad, and London is still considered one of the most stylish cities in the globe.
* * LONDON * *
I’m not going to wax lyrical about the virtues of London because I’ve bored you with that in plenty of other ops, but I can’t let it slip through the net entirely. Our capital is one of our greatest assets, steeped in history, bristling with life and innovation and inhabited by people from the far reaches of the globe. As a nation we have a long way to go to become truly ‘multicultural’ (I will draw a veil over the recent race riots up north, which make me sick to the stomach), but London is an international city which really puts us on the map.
* * VILLAGES * *
In contrast, our villages and hamlets are also national treasures. Arguably these show off the ‘real’ England, and are bestowed with such risible names as Wallish Walls, Twenty, Yeavering Bell and Wham (all true). Villages are the upholders of quaint institutions, from Girl Guide jumble sales to vicarage s
ummer hog roasts, and have a greater concentration of X-file candidates per square foot than anywhere else in the country. Unlike city psychos however, your average English village-dwelling crazy horse is seemingly innocuous, and it’s only when you’re invited in for tea (no thank you) that you see their collection of dead hedgehogs.
* * MAD DOGS AND ENGLISHMEN * *
The English are a strange race. We weep at pictures of bedraggled cats, yet merrily part with £10 to go on a guided Jack the Ripper tour of London. We grumble ceaselessly about the weather, even when it is glorious outside (“hot enough for you?”), yet never complain about bad service. If a waiter asks an Englishman whether he is enjoying his meal the reply will invariably be yes, even if he has to politely excuse himself five minutes later to vomit. We are a nation of apologisers, stammering “sorry, sorry” if someone stands on *our* foot. And the English always wait their turn. For everything. Queuing is almost a national sport – and the sooner it gets recognised as such the better I say; we’ll be a shoo-in for at least one gold in the Olympics.
* * OTHER POINTS TO NOTE * *
An ironmonger does not mong iron, and a fishmonger does not mong fish. It’s just another example of how the English love nonsense.