Tag Archives: Britain

Letter From Britain

5 Nov

Sometime in the summer, Kate Shrewsday asked if I would be willing to contribute to a new blog she was setting up, about British life.

I said ‘yes’, of course; and then contributed nothing for months.  However, I now have my groove back and have produced as many as four posts for that blog, Letter From Britain.  Two of the posts you will have read on here first; one included an apology and an accidental lie; one was original material.

The original stuff is reproduced below, for those of you too lazy to visit Letter From Britain, but I hope the rest of you will wander on over.  There is an eclectic mix of writers and writing styles but all have one thing in common: we love Britain and want to give you a flavour of this beautiful, if ancient, country. Some of us prove that by making fun of it.

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A Letter From Britain

WE’LL GET YOU YET

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (Photo credit: Wikipe

The British are coming! The British are coming!

Americans might claim that saying as theirs, via Paul Revere, but my favourite use of it was when it headlined a newspaper article in the Johannesburg broadsheet, The Star, in the early Nineties.  The article announced that the Equity ban was to be lifted, and British TV would be allowed to be shown in South Africa at last.

What was the first programme to be aired?

Mr Bean.

Thanks for nothing, Equity.

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According to The TelegraphThe British are coming!  The British are coming! could have been shouted in 90% of the world’s countries at one point or another:

The analysis of the histories of the almost 200 countries in the world found only 22 which have never experienced an invasion by the British.

Among this select group of nations are far-off destinations such as Guatemala, Tajikistan and the Marshall Islands, as well some slightly closer to home, such as Luxembourg.

Don’t worry, countries not yet in the club: if the British don’t get you, Mr Bean probably already has.

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That reminds me of one of my favourite jokes:

Why does the sun never set on the British Empire?

Because God doesn’t trust an Englishman in the dark.

Is It April 1st Already; Or Are We Just British?

22 Mar

When I first read this report on Sky News, I had to double-check the date: a coach company has arranged tours of one of Britain’s busiest motorways…and tickets have sold out.

Some highlights:

The trip […] involves a four-hour drive around the world’s biggest ring road for the bargain price of £15.

To enhance the excitement,

…passengers will not be told in advance which way around the ringroad they will travel. […] “We’re keeping it as a surprise whether we’ll travel clockwise or anti-clockwise…”

Some facts:

It  was the most expensive motorway ever built in Britain with the 11-year project costing just over £900m, the equivalent of £7.5m a mile.

By the time it was officially opened, it was already out of date because so many people wanted to use it. As a result, it usually has among the worst traffic jams of any road anywhere within the UK and regular roadworks.

Why am I even surprised?  We are a nation of geeks, after all: we not only invented trains, we invented train spotting – the art of writing down a registration number whilst wearing an anorak.  Must have been exciting back in The Rocket’s day, scribbling the registration number 1 in a notepad.

Don’t forget plane spotters.  It was British plane spotters who were arrested in Greece some years ago because the Greeks, like most right-thinking people, assumed they were spying.  Who can blame them?  What sane person spends the day at a cold and windy airport, writing down numbers?  By the way, have you met my husband?

It was the British who insisted, upon the invention of the automobile, that a man with a red flag walk in front of it, to warn people and hysterical horses of the coming terror.  The state of our roads are such that, if that man lived anywhere near one of our motorways, he would probably still have a job today.

Britain: a nation of nerds, and we have the coach trips to prove it.

I Don’t Care What The Weatherman Says

25 Aug
Hurricane

If you controlled the weather, what would it be like outside today?

One of the things I’ve always loved about Britain is the changing seasons.  I like to see blossom on the trees in spring; sunshine in summer; I enjoy kicking leaves in autumn; sitting inside not freezing my butt off in winter.

It’s the height of summer here now, so it’s raining.  I’d like it to be sunny.  I’d like not to be sitting wrapped in a cardi, hoping it will dry up enough to put out the washing currently draped all over the house.  I’d like to know it’s summer and not just a long winter punctuated with one hot day (the day I choose to cook a roast).

The Hub has the perfect system: sunshine all day; rain in the middle of the night when everyone is in bed.

Spud doesn’t care, so long as he can play football/watch football/hit me with a snowball.

Tory Boy lives in another country, so I can’t ask him.  Actually, it’s not another country; it’s an hour’s drive from here; but it might as well be another country for all the time he takes to call his mother.

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There’s a hurricane in the Atlantic at the moment.  That’s what I call weather.  None of our British seventeen-types-of-rain-wrong-snow-on-the-line-a-hot-day-whip-off-the-vest-and-frighten-the-children wishy-washiness.

The problem with dramatic weather, however, is that it tends to rather inconvenience people unfortunate enough to live in its path; in fact, it tends to be downright vindictive.  I hope those of my readers affected or likely to be affected by Hurricane Irene are well prepared, and stay safe.  I don’t want a disruption to my blog reading.

For an excellent guide to hurricane preparations, read Nancy’s post on what to do.   There is also a link in my blogroll so you can track hurricanes in your area.

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All this weather talk reminds me of something I once read in Stephen Pile’s The Book Of Heroic Failures; I can’t recall it exactly, but it was a tv station’s apology for their intermittent weather report:

Whether the weather can be brought to you today depends on the weather, whether we like it or not.

The original quote was much funnier but I can’t find it; I did, however, come across a Penguin worksheet for high school students based on The Book Of Heroic Failures (and the media complains exams are getting easier…!).

Here’s an excerpt from the preamble:

Stephen Pile was born in Lincolnshire in 1949. In 1977, when he was 28 years old, he said, ‘I’m never going to write a book’.  The Book Of Heroic Failures was published two years later […] He therefore failed in his ambition never to write a book.

He and others started the Not Terribly Good Club of Great Britain in 1976, but it was such a success that they closed it down.

Good job he’s not in charge of the weather; all we’d have is rain in summer.

O-oh…

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An Official Announcement

30 Aug

Today is a public holiday in Britain; the Laughing Housewife is taking a day off from blogging.  As usual, there are nothing but repeats on television.  In the spirit of the BBC, ITV & Channel 4, The Laughing Housewife’s blog is showing a repeat of a post that aired last year. 

I wouldn’t bother reading it; it’s even duller now than it was then:

I have a busy day ahead. I am doing the music at church this morning. If it goes as well as last time, it will be a fiasco. We have a new cd player only it’s not really a cd player but uses a memory stick. That’s fairly straightforward. It’s the tempo button that tripped me up. You can set the tempo for each song played. It sounds like a good idea and when I played them before the service and sang along in my head, the tempo was spot on each time. However, throw in a congregation – albeit small and composed mostly of old ladies – and the thing takes on a life of its own. At first it was too slow so I speeded it up; then it was too fast so I slowed it a little. Unfortunately, the ladies were still racing along with the fast tempo and they finished singing before we ran out of music. Some of them are also getting deaf and I had it too quiet, too soft, too loud, too blow the roof off. By the time the feedback whistle from one of the mikes started, I was past caring, and sat laughing hysterically in my corner. They must be pretty desperate if they ask me to do it again.

After church I have to come back, clean up, then go to buy some groceries. The Hub bought a couple of boxes of Honey Waffles and came to have some last night…he found enough for half a bowl. I would blame the children but they don’t like them, so I can’t. He knew it was me and if I want to save my marriage I have to replace them today.

I’ll get back in time to not watch the City game. I will be sorting through the crap I want to sell at a boot sale tomorrow. I am going with a friend. Unless it rains, in which case, Freecycle will be getting it all.

After that, it will be time to make dinner, eat dinner, clean up after dinner, and collapse in bed from the exhaustion housework always brings on in me.

A dull post for a dull day; but why should I suffer alone?

It’s Raining, It’s Pouring

15 Jul

There’s a nice irony that a woman called ‘Summer’ should sing a song about rain.  I wonder if she’s of British descent?  I once knew a girl called ‘Storm’ because she was conceived during one; I wonder how much therapy she needed?

It’s like we live under a waterfall here in Stockport; I’ve never known such torrential rain in this country.  It’s the kind of rain we used to get in South Africa – when it did rain, that is; we lived under drought conditions for most of my fourteen years out there and that’s why I can make ten cents’ worth of water do two baths, a pot of tea and three layers of steamed vegetables and still have change for a bottle of Evian.

I used to feel homesick for Britain when we had the occasional rainy day in South Africa; now I feel homesick for South Africa when we have rainy days in Britain.  I am homesick a lot.   Hooray for the Great British Summer: three sunny days in three months and a dusty fan in the loft.

Poor Spud Bud’s holiday has been cut short because they have spent four days in a caravan wondering if the sea was coming to sweep them away.  They did manage some time in the pool, which seems an odd way to me to avoid getting wet.  Once they had spent all of their money in the arcade, however, it was time to admit defeat.    

I read an interesting article once about rainy weekends.  You know how it can be sunny all week and rain all weekend?  Apparently, it’s caused by people going away on Friday evenings:  the build-up of traffic fumes propagate the clouds, leading to rain.  So the people who can afford to get away for a few days spoil it for those of us who can’t.  How selfish is that?

I thought I would share a few rain jokes with you but apparently Google don’t do rain humour.  If you know any, feel free to post a comment.  Sorry if this post is a bit wet: constant, pounding, unrelenting, ceasless, never-ending downpours tend to dampen the spirits a little.

Ladies And Gentlemen, Please Be Upstanding For The National Anthem

18 May

I was looking for a You Tube clip of Steph on Over the Rainbow – I’m gutted she’s out; it’s my fault for not voting because I taped it and watched it the next day – when I came across this clip from the SABC, the broadcasting arm of the Rainbow Nation:

I love the South African national anthem; talk about a coalition: two minutes, two tunes, five of the eleven official languages.  It was an inspired piece of thinking from Nelson Mandela.  In case you don’t know the history, I’ve copied this from Wikipedia:

For decades during the apartheid regime it was considered by many to be the unofficial national anthem of South Africa, representing the suffering of the oppressed. In 1994 after the fall of apartheid, the new State President of  South Africa Nelson Mandela declared that both “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” and the previous national anthem, “Die Stem van Suid Afrika” (“The Voice of South Africa”) would be national anthems. While the inclusion of “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” rejoiced in the newfound freedom of many South Africans, the fact that “Die Stem” was also kept as an anthem even after the fall of apartheid, signified to all that the new government under Mr Mandela respected all races and cultures and that an all-inclusive new era was dawning upon South Africa. In 1996, a shortened, combined version of the two anthems was released as the new South African National Anthem under the constitution of South Africa.

I like a good national anthem.  My favourites are the South African; the British (naturally): 

 The American:

And the French:

 

I find it amusing that three of my favourites celebrate republicanism and the fourth monarchy.  I guess it’s all down to their rousing tunes, which is the point of a national anthem, after all: they are a rallying cry set to music. 

I had a quick look at the different lyrics.  It was inevitable, I suppose, that the French anthem would ramble on for five minutes, but they are complaining about bad soldiers slitting their throats so we’ll forgive them that.  Their anthem says

…that the impure blood
Should water the furrows of our fields.

The Americans thunder about 

…the rockets’ red glare
The bombs bursting in air.
 

Before peace descended on South Africa, Afrikaaners

…always, always say yes:
To live, to die.

And the British?  Why, we

confound their politics
Frustrate their knavish tricks.

That told ’em! 

I guess it’s why we have a constitutional monarchy system that still works; we are far too polite to change it.  Even our radical new political system is just two groups agreeing to disagree on a few points and rub along on the rest.

An interesting fact about Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika: it is also the national anthem of Tanzania and Zambia and was formerly the anthem of Zimbabwe and Namibia.  It was written in 1897 as a Methodist hymn.  The title means God bless Africa.  A nice little irony is that it was the rallying cry of the exiled and Communist-supported ANC.

The reason for the SABC video of the national anthem is to teach the South African population the words in time for the World Cup.  Not everyone speaks five languages, though most South Africans speak at least two and often three.  As the host nation, it would be embarrassing if the people didn’t know the words to their own national anthem; just ask the British: our footballers all speak the same language, but most of them lip synch like a bad dubbing at international fixtures.  Still, we don’t pay them obscene amounts of money to be literate, do we?  Just as well, really.

 

 

 

 

 

PS

23 Apr

Speaking of leaders’ debates and South Africa, Nick Clegg’s proposals to only send immigrants to parts of the country where they are needed sounds awfully like the pass laws to me:  Welcome to Britain!  Apartheid is alive and well and coming to a doctor’s surgery near you.

No thanks.

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