- Travel and Places
Things You Can Depend On in Britain- Like a Nice Cuppa Tea!
I guess there are worse places to live, like TexasClick thumbnail to view full-size
A Sinking Ship - but some of the rats still love the place!
A Nice Cuppa Tea. You will never, semantically, get a nasty cup of tea in Britain. These days, realistically, you will rarely get a nice one, either, made as it is from a stale tea-bag. But you will always be asked to have a "nice cuppa tea," and you will be required to - or find yourself saying after having a few cups along life's journey - "Oooo, lovely, thanks" adding "Mmmmm...mmm" if the often insipid beverage is accompanied by a couple of tasteless, sugary digestive biscuits. Don't ask me why they are called "digestive biscuits," perhaps once, when biscuits first came into being, some were so indigestable - like the ship's biscuits with weevils in them - a new sort was called for that people could actually turn into poop without getting stomach woes.
British Weather. Unlike more balmy climes such as the States (for Texas, change to barmy...right Misty?), where the sun is expected to shine more or less continuously for months on end, Britain really does get weather. Generally not the kind that kills you, as that in America when the sunshine does change to hurricanes and twisters drowning the unlucky or even taking them and their automobile aloft never to be seen again. But in Britain to be a weather person on Television is a serious career choice and the BBC, for example, would loose half its programming if they didn't report the weather every few minutes on their news. The Weather Gods or whoever is responsible for climate has arranged things in Britain so we have some really glorious clear sunny days from 4:00 am to 10:00 pm; these are usually allowed between 3 and 5 days per year and are received with some chagrin by the weather reporters who are at a loss for something to report all day, except to mutter grimly that a "front" is coming over the Irish Sea bringing a "belt" of rain which will soon end our summery jinks.
A normal day in the UK for eight months at least of the year commonly contains about five changes, from mist and freezing fog in the morning, to rain by midday, sunny spells in the late afternoon just in time for the sun to be of the angle it shines uncomfortably in your eyes while driving the kids home from school, back to rain in the evening and a drop in temperature causing black ice on the motorway under the many bridge abuttments. Recent higher than normal rainfall has seen thousands flooded out of their homes (I saw with no little glee that the floods hit the wealthy this time in the Surrey Stockbroker Belt as the Thames broke its banks...of course, this gave them a chance to move into the yacht, the London flat, or run around in the amphibean vehicle, and even the PM went to see them, but they were put out for once). Now that is something a weather girl can get her teeth and sadistic tendencies into!
Dislike of our European Partners. Although the European Union has being going for a couple of generations and being added-to with much pleasure on the mainland, the British like none of it and see themselves as superior to all other members. Although we are arguably the poor men of the continent in most ways that count: treatment of elderly and the young, expensive housing, petrol and consumer goods; the ability to prepare food, the way we dress, our potholed roads, filthy cities and awful resorts...the bloody weather! I could go on here but it's not a rant against but rather FOR the better things here - I wish they were easier to find!
The British sense of humor. The saving and perhaps necessary grace of this beleagured and torn island(s) is the often hilarious sense of humor which makes the British able to laugh at themselves more ably than any others I have met. OK, perhaps they have more reason to find life a comical and often rugged journey. But you won't be around a Brit long before he is poking fun at himself, his buds or the land he lives in. Yet the British are extremely patriotic under the sardonic veneer. ("This is my friend, Terry," a chap might say, "He's a bit of a dickhead but we're used to him!"). You have only to hear sports spectators or a concert audience bellowing the inane national anthem, "God save the Queen" to realize that we apparently love the place and its rulers. How the bloody monarch can bear to listen to that sonorous and boastful nonsense without turning royal purple with embarrasment and issuing a proclamation banning it is beyond me. But royalty and the subservience to it has always caused me to have gas.
The British disdain for money. Yes, it's true, we are nowhere near turned on by the "almighty dollar," or pound, stirling as our cousins in the USA or even the French and Germans across the sea. The British are living in a country known as "RIP" for "Rip-Off Britain." We are surrounded by foreigners (mainly) after our pathetic savings and/or wages. This comes from online crooks in scores of other nations - stand-out is Nigeria - trying to dupe us into buying into some scam or other on the Internet. The "Payday Loans" unregulated, quasi-legal swine who lend money and charge despotic rates of interest are represented by a dozen firms advertising in a big way on television. We are taxed and regulated to the point of insanity. LIke sheep, the poor of the country get more and more into debt. Goodness knows - but one can guess - what the end will be as baliffs try to remove their poor sticks of furniture when they fail to pay, as thousands are sure to do, or not to do. (A baliff told me in all seriousness they try to get their hands on a person's sentimental belongings as they might be persuaded to pay to get them back, and their goods are worth nothing...this is especially true as bankruptcy sales do well to net 10 cents on the dollar).
Yet, along with the champs, the North Americans, the British are among the most generous of charity givers to the literally hundreds of agencies and charity shops begging funds for children, animals, hospitals and other country's refugees. That a huge percent of this money goes into the charity CEO's pockets really doesn't get the givers irate (except me!). Because - and Freud would have a field day - the British really don't love money all that much and will happily give you some if you have a good story. (Note: to those reading this article and sensing a chance, I am more French in my outlook...f--k off!).
An excess of good manners? You can test this by kicking someone in the shins, stepping on their toes, or running your cart into them in the supermarket. Although wincing in pain and secretly wishing you dead, the victim will invariable say, "Oh, so sorry" As if he had been the aggressor. This scenario is laughed at and derided, but I rather like the habit. Usually, he or she who committed the minor infraction against you is about to say sorry, too, so the situation is defused (unless you are dealing with an OAP which might bare its gums and snarl at you as it grumbles away, or a more honest American visitor who might say, "Hey, fella, why don't you look where you're going!").
Queueing manners. The British never jump queues, and won't like it if you do but probably won't protest. They will wait for hours for buses (days even for concert tickets or store sales) and remain mannerly when the conveyance arrives, often late here. In fact, there is often some delay as two "after you, no, I insist, after you" gentlemen hold things up further. Although these lovely manners are dying it's still common for a customer to hold the door for you to enter an establishment (such as a bank) first, although you will then be ahead in the line. .( I have stopped opening car doors for females; stepping off the pavement for them, or holding their chairs in restaurants having been given the cold feminist shoulder too many times...this can be useful if they will stand in during a bar fight for you).
Polite police and officials. After the martial attitude of police and security employees in the US, I have been impressed until up to maybe the last couple of years (it has changed some) by how low- key, polite and obliging these officials have been. I fondly remember bringing an ex. and our exquisite 4-year-old child into Heathrow airport some years ago. Not only was her status as my Mexican wife ignored, she was welcomed into the country with huge smiles by a motherly immigration officer who swept daughter, Montserrat, into her arms and the other all made a fuss of her. My ex. never forgot that and it colored favourable her view of Britain forever. It has changed I am afraid, since Lockerbie, 9-11 and the ingress of millions of Europeans "intent on stealing British jobs and getting on benefits!" Probably some truth in that anyway.
Unfailing dislike and mistrust of politicians. Unlike the US where millions seem to actually like the countries leaders or the pretenders for power, in Britain most vote but generally dislike even the party that wins the X on the line. We never trust them and not one in the current crop even receives an iota of respect. The personable PM, Cameron is perceived - rightly- as putting his buddies in big business ahead of all else. We even see today that one large pub chain has won the contract to put pubs - bars - in the motorway service stops! Just what the weary driver wants, a few belts to help him get home! And there are a hundred instances of commerce winning contacts at varience from the public interest or desire. Take fracking, the ridiculous new high speed train, nucleur power (with the work going to France). (Do we really need a train to do more than 250 mph on the journey between London and Birmingham of about 150 miles! The thing will never get up to speed). Politicians are seen as liars, power brokers, lazy and thieves, in league with banks and utiity companies. It's a wonder we don't actually shoot them often here like in the US, but we will never like or trust them.
Our beleagured yet wonderful NHS. The National Health Service in Britain is a huge miracle hanging on by the skin of its teeth to survive. It costs a hundred billion a year or more and provides FREE health service to everyone, rich or poor, old or young and is a life saver for millions. People from the US or most other nations can't understand just how reassuring it is to be able to go and see a doctor and get all the medications and not have to worry about paying a sou. Is it abused? Yes, of course, there are many who take advantage. But it saves hundreds of lives daily and if the bloody Tories don't destroy it, the NHS will remain the star jewel in Britain's crown.
So there is something to like and depend upon, at least for now, in Britain. I wish we could reset life as easily as a computer by returning to a past time. But we cannot, and much of what was good is being lost and only replaced with the ugliness becoming all too familiar...but sadly we'll never loose the bloody weather!!