Saturday, 8 December 2012

Welcome to the 21st century!

Technology is advancing almost as fast as I can go through a family-size box of PG Tips, and after several years of attempting to escape from the torrent of touch-screens and other gizmos that seem to have neglected buttons, I have finally run out of steam. Yes, dear readers, this is the news that I have succumbed to the pressures and entered the era of the Smartphone. 

I look back with nothing but joy to those brickesque Nokia handsets. Those cheep and cheerful chunky lumps, with their flashing lights and pulsating vibrations. They were the very essence of what a phone should be. Oh, and did I mention that they had Snake? That might have been the most important thing. Perhaps ever. I shall have to do more research on that front, though, before I can provide you all with an accurate table of results. 

Putting nostalgia aside for one moment, I am rather enjoying this new phone. I write this with it on my lap. It’s gigantic screen staring happily back, waiting patiently until it has something to inform me of. It’s like having my very own little Jeeves! Whenever someone sees fit to contact me, it chirps merrily, advertising the recent social activity that has been channelled in my direction. I can use it to check my emails, my Facebook, Twitter, the lot. It is even kind enough to inform me of Sunderland’s increasingly poor results in the Barclays Premier League. How I wish it would stop doing that. I wonder if there is a setting somewhere that makes it only notify me if we win...
There is one thing that niggles me. It just seems to, well, do so much. You never get the feeling that it’s giving you it’s full attention. Whilst you’re writing a text, you know that it’s scanning your email inbox, checking the weather, updating Twitter, making you lunch, the list is endless. The only way I can possibly describe the sensation is by comparing it to having a conversation with someone you have bumped into for the first time in several years. On the face of things, they seem to be listening intently, responding with care and accuracy to your every syllable. But behind closed doors they are somewhere else. Thinking about last night’s MasterChef results, the bills waiting on the dresser, something like that. Although the conversation is pleasant, you never turn away feeling truly satisfied that they were fully interested. Ok, fine, it’s not exactly the same in this scenario, because I am quite grateful for the background work that the phone does, but the feeling is there. 

Setting the phone aside for the moment (metaphorically, of course, because as you will know if you have ever met anyone with a new technological instrument, they never put it down) there has been another technological advance in my life. Perhaps one even more drastic than the phone. Before I reveal what is is, I must warn you. If you judged me before, you will just have to judge me that little bit more now, because what I am about to tell you is quite a lot more than mildly embarrassing. I used an umbrella for the first time just two days ago. I know. How could I have survived in London for this long without one?! Before you launch a torrential rant in my direction, I’d just like to point out that nine times out of ten when I leave the house, I’ve always taken a waterproof coat with me just to be sure. I’m not that silly. Please note that there was a heavy emphasis on the word ‘that’. One wouldn’t want you to think that one has become sensible. No one would not. 

The experience of the umbrella was quite marvellous. The notion of not having to look like a prat in a ridiculous raincoat whilst keeping dry is quite a pleasant one. It’s just substituted for the danger of cutting your fingers on the ruddy clasps when you come to open your umbrella. Blasted things. Once you get it up, though, (innuendos aside, please) it’s rather wonderful. I’ve always loved the sound of rain against a window, and now with this new invention (in my life, at least) you can take it wherever you go! Hurrah! Some credit must go to the bloke who designed it. I shall inform Her Maj immediately to give one a knighthood.

That pretty much concludes my belated welcome into the 21st century. Now, let one resume counting down to the 12 days of Christmas. One expects all the lords to be leaping when it arrives. Keep calm all!

Friday, 26 October 2012

Blog post Gangnam Style!

It’s me! I’m back! Oh how kind of you! Of course I missed you too! Right. Are we done with that now? For the sake of all that’s British, get a grip of yourselves.

It has been a rather lengthy period of time, though, and I sincerely apologise for having deprived you all of my commentary of some truly exciting events in real-time, and indeed now, because whilst they were all great fun, there are more pressing matters at hand. 

But as with almost every rule in existence (possibly excluding the laws of physics), I shall make one quick exception to comment on what was undoubtably the two most exciting things to have taken place in Britain in my lifetime: the Olympic and Paralympic games. Like with the Jubilee, though, I wasn’t there for it. Bugger. I did manage to make it back in time to watch some of the Paralympic coverage, and may I just say, it was a jolly good show. If I may, I would like to personally congratulate Jonnie Peacock for his performance in the T44 100m, which was, in my own opinion, the highlight of both sets of games. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but along with Oreos stopping having the creamy bit in the middle, isn’t a Brit winning gold at a sprinting event one of the harbingers of the apocalypse? Just a thought...

Although many of us are still revelling in our joy, let us be honest with ourselves for a moment, and only for a moment please, because we don’t want to be too sensible for too long. We all expected the games to flop. Come on, the London Underground is overcrowded and ridden with problems at the best of times! Can any of us honestly say that we expected it to cope with an enormous influx of passengers? I certainly didn’t. Although us Brits are a proud, noble, and quite marvellous bunch of chaps (if I may say so myself), we do have a seemingly limitless ability to ridicule and belittle ourselves. But it did work. And next to Jonnie, that was the thing that I found most remarkable. Headlines were smattered around the papers, claiming that the games “rekindled national pride”. Indeed they did, but it won’t take long for that flame to flicker out, allowing us to go back to being our grumpy selves once again. Perfect. Just the way (uh huh uh huh) we like it.

Having missed the Olympics, I decided that I must find some alternative method of compensating this missed opportunity to be cultural, and what better way do have done this than by making a trip to the Tate Modern. It may be an odd thing to do, but as with Marmite, I love it. Sadly, though, many of my friends and colleagues do not share the same views. On modern art that is; many of them do like Marmite. It took several attempts at persuading a certain someone to accompany me to the gallery, and after finding out that it was compulsory for their university assignment, they were roped into it. Score. Strangely though, they showed a certain reluctance towards the whole thing. Apparently (still talking about modern art here), it is, to quote one of the more polite adjectives associate with it, “crap”. And I agree. A lot of it is. One so called ‘piece’ that is currently on display was, as far as I could tell, just a giant sheet of squared paper! You know, the kind of sort that you got in maths exercise books in school. What rubbish. I shall have to put a word in with Her Maj to have the ‘artist’ taken to the Tower immediately.

Now, I’d guess that 85% of the gallery is made up of such tosh, but that is the beauty of it. It’s like shopping at LIDL; you have to forage for hours until you find something worth looking at. I would like to have made a more accurate estimation of the ratio of utter bollocks to interesting things, but after visiting two of the four galleries, I was promptly dragged out, since my company had decided that they had had enough of staring at bits of mud smeared on canvas. Whats more, they were in such a rush to escape that we even missed afternoon tea! Honestly. What disgraceful behaviour. 

Sticking with this theme of culture, I feel it is my duty to Queen, country, and the people of the internet to comment on what is perhaps the biggest viral hit in history. A hit so big, that our beloved Boris and not-so-beloved Cameron have taken to dancing to it. Yes, Gangnam Style has become quite something. Now although it isn’t really British, I would like to bring two and a half points to your attention. The half being that you don’t get to chose what goes into this blog, but I do. So ha. Being more constructive, though, there is a quite fantastic, royally approved (in my mind), parody on a little website called YouTube. If you haven’t already, put down your mug of Earl Grey (I feel fancy on Fridays), search for “London Style”, and be amused. 

The final, and perhaps the most important reason as to why I have brought it up is because I would like to start a petition. Not one of those dull ones when some politician knocks on your door and unsuccessfully spends several dreary minutes explaining as to why they have failed so badly in life that it has led them to their current position. Heavens, no. I want to do a proper one. One which relates to every member of the public and not some shiny fore-headed prime minister. I propose that instead of marching in unison during the changing of the guard, that every single one of those beefeaters dances Gangnam Style towards their new position. How great would that be?! We could do it during Trooping of the Colour as well! Imagine how much more exciting the procession would be! Sod it, I’m going to write a letter to Her Maj as we speak to inform her of my marvellous idea. I’m sure I can get Mr Boris on my side too. 

Well, that’s it for now. I will strive to the best of my endeavours to not leave you for that length of time ever again, unless my inevitable appointment as the orchestrator of royal events occupies too much of my time. Keep calm!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

And it's still reigning in England...

I missed it! I actually missed it! "What did I miss?", I hear you asking? The bloody jubilee, that's what! And do you know what makes it worse? I'm flying to London on Tuesday! Couldn't Her Maj have held it off just one more week? Just for me? Please?

Well, there's no point begging now. It's over. No Paul McCartney, horse racing or street parties for me. All I got to do was to change the wallpaper on my iPod to the famous "Keep calm and carry on" poster. Yippee for me.

But I suppose that's a good thing really, because our way of celebrating on a national day has always puzzled me. You all know what I'm speaking of, oh yes: the street party. How on earth did we come up with that? If any of you have ever set foot in Britain, you will know that we are not the most social bunch when it comes to dealing with strangers. Every single one of us, no matter how old or young, we all know that there is a rule that we do not talk to our neighbours. We do not speak of this rule, but it is there; kind of like Fight Club. Occasionally you will get one odd-bod in your street, though, who will think that they are above this, and they'll go round to new residents and introduce themselves, often bringing a traditional peace offering (wine). Now, instead of thinking, "That was nice!", or, "How kind!", as they think you would, our only reaction is, "What a weirdo. I wonder why he did that?"

Now, if you keep that information in mind, just think for a minute about street parties. Got it? There we go. How does it work?! Introductions must be odd, "Hello there, I have lived two doors down from you for the past eight years. It's nice to finally meet you after having ignored you for all this time! Fancy a beer?" It doesn't sound like my thing, to be honest. But is that really going to be what brings us together as a nation? Will it only take a royal celebration to bring people together? Probably. That sounds about right. And to be honest, I am quite thankful for that. Not because of any issues of social akwardness, no, but because of something much more embarrassing: I do not know the national anthem.

Now, I know the tune and some of the words, but after something about sending Her Maj victorious, I am completely clueless. How has this happened?! How can I proudly parade around calling myself British whilst I have to look like Wayne Rooney trying to recite Shakespeare when the national anthem comes on?! It's ridiculous! But then again, in my own little world, nobody knows the full set of lyrics, and more importantly, we're not supposed to ask. Ok, well that sounded a lot better inside my head. Now it looks like a perfect recipe for a dictatorship! Yes! I can see it now! There's the Queen and Prince Phillip sitting round one of the many fireplaces in Buckingham palace, their feet placed upon a corgi, plotting their evil plans. "Oh go on Phillip! It will be funny! Let's make all them all wear their scarves on their elbows and walk backwards on Wednesdays!" It would be chaos! And what if Prince Charles ever becomes king?! He'll probably have us replacing our morning Weetabix with those ruddy Dutchy Organic Biscuits of his! And they won't soak up the milk half as well! Oh dear, it could be such an odd future for us all.

Thankfully, though, I doubt that day will ever come, because I'm sure that in our little country there is a small group of people (none of whom will ever be invited to my house for supper) who bother researching the words just to make sure we're not unconsciously agreeing to have burly officers in trench-coats march down Oxford street barking orders at us and swinging their truncheons. Good on them, that's what I say. Sitting in their attics with a pair of slightly dusty glasses and a memo-pad, they are the unsung heroes of our nation. And I will add, although I greatly appreciate their work, I am in absolutely no hurry to meet any of them. Sorry.

Well, with my flight home fast approaching, I feel that all there is left to say is to wish a big British congratulations to our dearest Queenie (who I know is a big fan of these posts), and I propose we all raise our glasses (or tea cups) to a very happy 60 years! Huzzah!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Hay fever? There's pollen-ty of that going about

Ah, spring. It's finally here. After escaping winter's frosty chains, life is renewing itself once again. The birds are chirping, the lambs are lambing, and the sun is gloriously shining through a thin, wispy layer of clouds. How it sickens me. Blergh.

I used to like the spring. I really did! Honestly! I still remember the morning commutes; head resting against the bus window, the sunlight would stream in, making me extremely uncomfortable because I had, of course, worn my coat after being unable to convince myself that London's never-ending winter had actually ended. By no means was it perfect, but that first glimpse of sun along with the realisation that spring had finally arrived still stands out amongst my favourite memories. But those days are behind me now. These ruddy foreign trees have ruined it for me. Pigs.

It's not like I have never had hay-fever before, but back in London it never went further than a muffled sniffle or tickley eyes. But here, here is something different. My nose is running so violently that it could stand a good chance of qualifying for this years Olympics! On a side note, if that was to happen, it could see a first ever correct use of the phrase, "And he has won it by a nose". Ha ha! Sorry. It seems to be the day for these awful puns. But seriously. Not only do I have Niagra Falls sitting in the middle of my face, but I am constantly fighting the urge to tear my eyes out! It's horrendous! They are so itchy! Yes, that's right! Pity me! Too right you should! And if you don't, we'll, that's not very nice of you, is it?

Although all evidence in this post would prove the contrary, I am quite a positive and cheery person really, and it does seem odd for me to hate the spring. In fact, it is extremely odd, because I don't much like the summer either. Why? Because its too bloody hot, that's why. I spend half the year complaining about the freezing temperatures, the lack of snow, the thick carpet of grey clouds, and the constant drizzle, only to complain about the very opposite when winter finally buggers off. That's the British way, I guess. We're never satisfied unless we have something to complain about, and when all is going well, we can always rely on the weather as back-up material for our rants.

Rather sadly, though, they don't seem to have that attitude over here. By my calculation (partially based on the fact that half my budget is suddenly being spent on tissues), spring has been here for a good few weeks, and I cannot detect a single sign of anybody complaining! What is wrong with these people! I am so sick of hearing, "Oh! What a lovely day!" every single ruddy morning. Shout about something! Complain! Nothing can ever be that perfect! What about the increased number of bees, the ice in your drinks melting too fast, mosquito bites, crowded beaches, poor service at the pool-side bar, or why don't you bloody complain about me complaining too much?! Show some sign of frustration! I noticed somebody the other day who was burnt to a crisp, and thought, "Ah ha! Here's somebody who we might be able to coax some misery out of!" After asking him how he got burnt, do you know what his response was? Did he begin to fire all sorts of curses at the sun and the makers of sun-cream? No. No he didn't. He merely smiled at me and said, "Had a party on the beach and fell asleep. It was so worth it though". What?! There is nothing, nothing in this world that is worth having to look like acne for! I don't know how much more of this happy-clappy nonsense I can take.

I guess I'll have to sit here then; cowering behind my bedroom window, too afraid to confront the pollen outside. See what I have been reduced to? At least I have you all, though. When all else fails, I can always rely on having a good old-fashioned natter to keep me believing. If nobody in this country is going to complain about anything, I guess I shall have to do it for them. A kind of national service, if you will. Now that's something I have no trouble showing my British side for.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Your on-board entertainment this evening shall be provided by those sitting in 53B and 53C

Well, it's over, dear readers. I've put my watch forward, I've packed a considerable about of unnessecsry things into my bag, and I've gone back to not understanding a single word. No, silly! I have not gone back to studying A-level history! Oh dear, it pains me to even joke about it... Fortunately, that is not the case, but with a considerable amount of regret, I must announce that I have left Britain once again. I'll leave you all a few minutes to grieve.

Right. That's enough. Pull yourselves together.

I did have quite a nice time, though. Nice. Hmm. It's strange, isn't it? Not fantastic, not amazing, not lovely, but 'nice'. All my life I have been educated to avoid using the word 'nice' like it's the plague, but it seems to fit here. I can hear the teachers of my youth shouting at this very moment, "What's wrong with you boy?! Can't you think of a proper adjective?!" Rude. But I'd like to defend 'nice', because there is honestly no other word that would be appropriate in this situation.

I know it is a bit cliché, but nice to me is sitting on a slightly old armchair in my dressing-gown, slowly dipping biscuits into a cup of hot chocolate and watching them go soggy. Before you ask, yes, I am fully aware that the above is quite a weird, and yes, we Brits do drink other things besides tea. But that is what nice is to me: it's comforting, it's cosy, it's homely. Although, my association of 'nice' with that image could have something to do with "NICE" biscuits that I was given as a child. Yes. That is what they were called, and if my memory serves me correctly, it was a bit optimistic.

So, after my nice little ramble around Britain, I was once again loaded into the metal toilet-roll-tube and fired into a world of troubles and torment. You see, my flight out of Blighty was a night flight, and next to finding out that that last packet of chocolate digestives you'd been saving has gone out of date, it is perhaps the most traumatic ordeal that one can ever face. No matter how hard I try, I cannot, I cannot sleep on a plane! My friends keep telling me, "Oh if you keep saying that you can't, then you won't be able to!" GO AWAY! Of course I don't say that to myself! How the bloody hell do you think I realised I couldn't sleep on a plane?! It's not as if I thought, "I wonder what would make this flight more interesting... I know! I'll develop an inability to sleep! That'll make the next five-and-a-half sodding hours pass quicker, won't it!!" Honestly. If I wanted some rubbish advice, I would have called the customer-service line at Asda.

This time, though, I though that I'd struck gold. I had an epiphany. Why don't I just go to bed really late the night before? Then I'd be tired enough to fall asleep on the plane! Well done me. What a brilliant idea. Wasn't that a great way of depriving yourself from a proper sleep in two days.

Now, although I do seem frustrated, my feelings are incredibly lessened for one simple reason. No, not tranquillisers. It was because of the wonderful elderly couple who were seated on my right. I have always had a soft spot for senior citizens, and not just because they like to feed you chocolate cake. Apologies for the use of 'senior citizen', by the way, but our nation's obsession with not wanting to cause offence has gone so far that I am afraid to use the word 'old', so please excuse my poor substitutes. So anyway, these aged specimens of the human condition just sat there, perfectly innocently, yet I was sitting close enough to enjoy their little commentary of one bloke trying to fit his hand luggage in an overhead compartment. "Oh here he goes again. No, the silly plonker, he's doing it wrong! Lengthways you muppet! No, no, oh, wait a minute! There we go! My my, it took you long enough, didn't it?"

Isn't that just brilliant?! I love catching snippets of other people's own private humour. To be honest though, it wasn't exactly private, because after her small muttered rant, her husband turned to me and smiled with a look on his face which seemed to say, "Oh dear, what's she like!" What truly wonderful people.

And that, dear readers, was the entertainment for my flight. Well it was, until they went to sleep, that is. Lucky wrinkly people. But once again, here I am. Thousands of miles from the place I once called home, and faced with the enormity of the task to settle in once again. Oh dear. Here we go again...

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Hooray for the Nanny State! Kind of...

What ho old chaps! How are you all on this fine Thursday? That’s good to hear. And what is that I hear you asking? Am I in London? Did I arrive safely? Was my flight alright?

Well, how jolly kind of you to ask! After, well, let us call it a bearable flight (I seem to have developed an inability to sleep on a plane), I am indeed back in Blighty! Now, after living on nothing but scones, crumpets, and steaming mugs of PG Tips for the past eight days, I am beginning to feel my old British habits creeping back. I never really lost them, don’t you worry, but I am finding myself tutting much more than I have done recently. Yes, you did hear me correctly. I have been back in Britain for just over a week and I am already complaining about everything and anything.

I’m not too surprised, to be honest. We Brits are rather good at complaining. In fact, I would feel pretty damn confident in saying that we all enjoy having a good old splutter at the daily headlines, and this is exactly what I did today. Well, not quite exactly. I guess I’ll have to explain.

There I was, sitting with my bowl of Weetabix and my oversized mug of tea (milk and two sugars, if you wanted to know), and I happened to pick up a brochure for a large supermarket chain. I’m not sure I should publicly embarrass them on my blog, but lets just say their name sounds an awful lot like Besco. The first part I thought was fine; food and drinks faded into household products, household products faded into electronics, but the transition from electronics to sofas saw the pages get turned upside-down. I never knew that sofas were sold, let alone advertised, any time other than in the month before Christmas, when the country suddenly decides that after being lumbered with their sofa for a year, they must change it. Why? Because the telly said so. I had always presumed that with the vast lengths that DFS go to over their advertising campaigns in December, that that was the only window in our calendar that sofas could ever be sold. Clearly I was wrong. Fair enough. It happens so often now that I don’t take notice of it anymore.

But that wasn't the thing which bothered me, and I’m sure you all noticed the catalyst for my frustration: the flipped pages. After getting over my immediate annoyance of having to turn the brochure the other way up, I got thinking (brace yourselves). The only reason why they would have flipped the pages would be to present a clear difference between sofas and the rest of their products. Wow. How useful. I never knew that sofas are different from wireless keyboards! I’m so thankful that they put this in, because for the past four years I have been watching the telly whilst sitting on a rather lumpy hoover! Finally I know what I am doing wrong!

Seriously though, I think we as a nation deserve a little bit more credit than that. And on that note, if you are going to flip the pages, then you might as well put it somewhere where there is a distinct change, like, I don’t know, between food and electronics perhaps?! If any of you out there happen to work for Besco, think a minute. Your customer service hotline is hardly being bombarded by thousands of numpties who have covered their new Toshiba laptop in tea after mistaking it for a Hobnob, and if we can tell the difference between products there, why do you see a need to make a separation for furniture? The mind boggles. It really does.

I wouldn’t want to leave you all on a sour note, though, because being back in London has been lovely, and to be honest, I did mange to find one benefit to this nanny state of ours. It wasn’t much, but it was the most useful sight that I have ever seen. After landing at Heathrow airport and beginning the endless shuffle to baggage claim, there was a little yellow sign displaying some vital information. The sign warned that the upcoming toilets were the final set of facilities before border control. That, dear readers, is genius. Not only did I choose to relieve myself there an then (making waiting in the queues at the border much more bearable), but if any of you have ever travelled with children, these sings are vital. Pure gold. Because we all know that after offering the children the use of a toilet, they will inevitably reject them, but fifteen minutes later, in the most inconvenient place possible, they will innocently look up at you and state,"I need the toilet. Now." That is possibly one of the worst things that one could ever hear, and that is why Britain might have finally got something right with their obsession with health and safety, signs, and other such nonsense. The fact that they ended up not being the last set of toilets, though, is beside the point. At least they tried.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The afternoon flight to London is now boarding from gate D7

Are you ready for this? Really? Honestly? Good, that's what I want to hear, because what you are about to read, well, what you are reading at this very moment, is the most spontaneous post that I have ever written: the airport post. That's right, dear readers, in only a few hours I will be shoved into a giant metal tube full of peanuts and launched at 500mph back to Britain, and the imminent nature of my departure has left several feelings swimming around my tummy.

Excitement is probably the most prominent, though. I mean for the past month, every time my eyes have flicked over to the top left corner of my wonderful iPod touch at the little 'aeroplane mode' icon, I cannot help myself from getting as excited as a little fat child plonked into a sweet shop, with a crisp £20 note grasped in his podgy hands. Is that shallow? Maybe. Childish? Almost definantly. But to be honest, I don't really care! I'm going to London! And do you know what the first thing that I am going to do once there, dear readers? I'm going to sit down, put the kettle on, and have a scone. Yum.

But as inviting as that image may be, i feel strangely attached to my new location, even though they don't have scones here. Shocking, I know. But the past eight months have been incredible. Absolutely brilliant. Who cares if I still look the wrong way when crossing the road, or that I look hopelessly touristy when I am lost! Well, I kind of do, to be honest, but that's not the point that I was getting at. The point I was going for was that it has really been one truly amazing experience.

What I would like to do now, or rather what I have begun doing, is to share with you some of the things that I've stumbled upon over these past few months. I apologise in advance that none of them actually involve me, well, to be honest I'd think you'll all be quite thankful, but for those of you who don't know me, I'm not really too fond of being in front of a camera. Instead, I prefer to take my own little pictures of things which interest me. So, with the help of my iPod's camera and a few little apps along the way, I have attached a few picturess which I'd thought you all would like. I know they're nothing special. I mean, we have flowers and cows in London too, but there is something comforting about seeing homely things away from home. Although, I think that we'd all agree that the smell of cow poo is universally displeasing.

Now, if my understanding of the native language is correct, I believe that that ding dong over the tanoy just announced the boarding of my flight. Before I do board though, I would like to apologise for my inevitable actions in advance. If any of you out there happen to be on a plane where some prat is bellowing 'Rule Britania' at the top of his voice, well, I think who we can all guess who that might be...

Prepare yourselves. I'm coming.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Upon arrival, the last set of doors will not open...

All I have to say to that is that they'd better do, because in a week and a bit I will be returning to Britain! Hurrah! But don't get too excited just yet, dear readers. I'm only visiting for three weeks. It's not permanent. Sorry.

You would think I would feel bad for leading you along that emotional roller-coaster, but I don't. Well, maybe a bit. But the feeling of guilt is remarkably lessened, because I have been experiencing my own little roller-coaster for the last few days. My mind has been constantly flitting back and forth, through excitement to nervousness, from anticipation to not caring, but I think the safest thing to say is that I am looking forward to having a jolly good curry when I get back. Chicken Jalfrezi, if you wanted to know. And if you didn't, well, too bad.

To be honest though, I'm not quite sure how I should feel. Part of me expects to be greeted at Heathrow terminal 1 by the Queen herself. There she would be, standing on the red carpet amongst depressed, sleep deprived, caffeine powered taxi drivers, holding out a scone and a biscuit whilst the royal guard play fanfares on those funny little trumpets and a little bloke in coat-tails and a top hat bellows at the top of his voice, "Hear ye, hear ye! His lordship has returned!" Nothing too pretentious, you know. But somehow, I doubt that will happen. Doubt. Not rule out. I still hold that little bit of hope. Oh, and by the way, before any of you even think of making a joke or asking, no, that is not the norm for us. Sadly. I can't exactly imagine Her Majesty being employed by British Airways as a stewardess. I mean, she isn't anywhere near orange enough, and the crown would definately clash with the uniform. Seeing as that situation isn't too likely to arise, I can therefore expect to be greeted by my darling family with open arms. Ah, what a lovely image. It's not quite as lovely as the full brass band and Her Maj, but they'll have to do for now.

Having analysed my arrival plans, the issue of what I will do afterwards is still in question. Frustratingly, what a rather large part of me wants to do is to, well, be a tourist! The irony is outrageous! Having spent all this time blending in here, am I really going to go back home and act like a bloody tourist there?! Really?! Because I already know what the reaction will be, and I don't particularly want to have magnitudes of strangers tutting at me whilst I run around the streets draped in my giant union-jack and an 'I heart London' t-shirt. But sod it, maybe I should. You never get to visit any Touristy places in your own country. It's not really a rule, but it's just something that we don't often do. Every time the motion is brought up amongst friends or family, the conclusion we always reach will be something along the lines of, "Eh, forget it. It's just a big clock". And that's the truth. Why bother? But now, now it's different. Having been separated from Blighty for eight months, I feel like I can sort of justify my desires. Who cares if some snob tuts. Who cares if I get the odd look on the tube. I'm doing it.

So, if any if you will be in London over the next few weeks, just keep an eye out for a rather bubbly and happy looking bloke covered from head to toe in tourist merchandise, because it could very well be me. Actually, it probably won't be. I have far to much self respect for that. Instead, I will be calmly touring, dressed in sensible clothes, with a copy of The Times under my arm, and a look of social awkwardness whenever a stranger enters my life. That's the British way!

Friday, 24 February 2012

Tea, top hats, and Her Majesty

Stereotypes. That is the topic for today's post. But I'm sure you guessed that from the title, didn't you? If not, well, what can I say? Have you ever heard of Britain? Is my blog the basis of all your assumptions on our rather peculiar mannerisms and characteristics?

For the sake of the entire world and the future of mankind, I sincerely hope the latter is not true. Please do not take everything I say literally. I know this is a hard thing for you, because as I rediscovered only a few days ago, people will believe anything if it is said in a British accent. I mean, you believed that, didn't you? I would like to say that I am extremely responsible and do not abuse this new-found power of mine, but that would be a lie. I cannot help myself from time-to-time. Once in a while. Every other Wednesday. Ok, fine, that's a lie too. I do it all the time. But do not think of me as a deceitful person, dear reader, I mean, in the end I do correct them... occasionally. Actually, I still think that there might be somebody wandering around with the belief that at 11:00 every day in London, we all get up, face Westwards, put on the kettle, and begin to do a river dance whilst singing the national anthem. Whoops.

Before I begin to wallow in my grief and guilt (whilst secretly giggling), I will argue that there might be some truth in that. Well, not a lot really, but if we exclude the timings, the singing, and the river dancing - pretty much the entire content of the lie, we are left with one point. Tea. And we do like our tea. I'd like to imagine that at some stage in every Brit's life, that they and their family have sat back in front of the telly, each with a hot mug of PG Tips (with milk, obviously), and slowly vegetated in the silence. It's not a very exciting image, I must admit, but it's homely. Sorry to shatter your image of us formally sitting at a table, dressed in coat-tails, a top-hat, and a monocle, but it is important that you know the truth, because more often than not, we will either be in our pyjamas or tracksuits (that would be sweatpants for all you Americans out there).

Now, before you all rush off and get excited, there is a point that I must stress. We do not, I repeat (mainly for the benefit of any non-Brits reading), we do not have tea-time! There is no set time in our daily schedule when we will drop everything that we are doing, put on the kettle, and toast a couple of crumpets! I have no idea where this bizarre concept came from, and I have even less of an idea why it prompts people (generally of the prat-ish sort) to wander up to me and ask the following in a highly unconvincing British accent: "Is you have tea-time with the Queen? At the Bucklingham palace?" If you too have asked yourself the same question of us Britons, the answer is yes, yes we do. But not always at the palace. Sometimes we have it in our pyjamas in my living room at home. Tea-time. Honestly.

Seeing as none of you can hear me (unless, of course, you are extremely talented), I can only hope that you all imagined me along with millions of other Brits tutting in that past sentence. If not, I guess you have done so now. What an absurd idea tea-time is. Setting a time aside in the day to sit down, drink tea and consume vast amounts of biscuits, scones, crumpets, and other cake-like snacks, it sounds... well, bloody brilliant to be honest! Why aren't we doing more of this?! How did the world come up with this wonderful activity for us that we never took advantage of?! For a race which is supposedly meant to be (or a least sound) intelligent, I think we missed something there. How is it that America, stereotypically a silly nation, managed to think this up? Perhaps they aren't as stupid as they are made out to be. Although, they weren't exactly clever enough to adopt the practice themselves, so I guess our views don't need to be changed.

Hmm... After all this talk about tea, I quite fancy a cuppa now. And although it is 16:56 and nearly an hour past my supposed slot for tea, I think that is exactly what I'm going to have. I'm not sure the queen will be able to make it on such short notice though. Oh well, I guess I'll try tomorrow.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Lost in translation

I'm sure you will all know (or if your knowledge is lacking, will guess) that the biggest barrier that one would face living abroad would be the language. And you would be right. It's bloody impossible.

Six months, six whole months (well, almost) I have been here, and a full four years in school I spent learning, yet still, I am unable to speak the ruddy language. Well, that's not entirely true, I will confess. I can get by, but I doubt that incoherent sentences coupled with over-expressive hand gestures counts. But that is not the frustrating part. It is extremely annoying, I admit, but it is nothing compared to my next problem. I hope I am right in saying that I think the following is common amongst everybody with a foreign language, and if not, well, let's just say you are slightly odd and leave it at that. Here it comes then; the most irritating thing of all is that I can understand more than I can speak. There. I said it.

Even though a sizeable portion of my education was spent twiddling my thumbs and longingly staring out of the window at those playing football (that's soccer to all you Americans reading, NOT your silly excuse for a sport), I must have absorbed a certain, I'm not really sure what to call it other than a 'tolerance' or a 'familiarity' with the language. Although this is still better than nothing, the following scenario has now become a regular occurrence in my life. I'll be down the shops or merrily walking on the street, minding my own business, musing over the previous day and slowly dissecting its events to decipher some meaning (oh, you don't do this too? Awkward...), and a local will approach out of nowhere and ask me a question. Now, I often understand what they are asking of me, but due to my general incompetence at life, my usual response is to stand there blubbing, failing at producing any sort of recognisable sound. Instantly, I am then deemed worthless. A mere waste of space. And occasionally, I have even been mistaken for a severely mentally ill ape.

For those silently (or verbally - I have no way of knowing) judging me, have a bit of sense! Yes, somebody who knows nothing will have exactly the same reaction, but more often than not, they expect to be seen in that way! And if not, well, maybe they really are apes! But seriously, my frustration is getting to the point that I actually get angry at little kids in the street. There they are, happily running around and speaking the language fluently. The arrogant little so-and-sos. How dare they! I am a good amount older than them! I should be able to speak it too! All I want to do is to scream at them going, "How?! How do you do it little person?! Teach me your wise ways once you have finished skipping around the road with your equally talented friends!" I won't do it though, just in case you are worried. I am far too sensible and British for that. Plus, although I am slightly odd, I am not that kind of odd. My kind of odd is more like loving to be in the car when it rains or preferring to drink cold water out of a mug. I think I might have strayed from the point there. And used the word 'odd' far too many times. Right, now, back to reality.

Although I do try and speak as much of the language as I can, whenever the opportunity arises to speak English, I take it. Whether it's meeting new people or trying to arrange transport, I feel that with important issues such as these, using a foreign language will be more than less than unhelpful. But even then there is a little problem, and it was only over the past weekend that I fully noticed it, giving me the idea for today's post. American English is very different to British English. And by different, I mean it's wrong. So very wrong. All this 'jelly', 'jello', and 'sidewalk' business is quite silly. I mean, when I finally find someone who can speak English in a sea of people who don't, imagine my annoyance and disappointment when I find out that neither of us can understand each other. So if any of you out there are American, whilst I love you all deeply, please stop talking funny. Ta.

In my attempt to bring a small understanding to our different cultures, I did a little bit of research. Well, not exactly research. I spent a full 23 seconds on Google. But still, what I found will prove useful to you all. It is an American-British dictionary! Gone are the days when people will look confused and go, "Sorry, what?!" or, "Who says that?!" I like to think I do my little bit for society. For your upmost convenience, I have attached the link below. Use it wisely. But that is it from me for now. Terrah!

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Perhaps a little too British for my liking...

After almost half a year abroad, I think it is now safe for me to admit that some progress has been made towards my integration! I have discovered that where I am, there is absolutely no sense of embarrassment, politeness, or personal space. Actually, scratch that - it isn't progress at all. But it is an important realisation, since it was my awareness of this that made me realise just how British I am.

This shocking discovery was made around three days ago. There I was, talking to a group of friends on the pavement, when out of nowhere a bloke walked straight into my side. After recovering from the trauma of a stranger entering into my life (a major shock for any Brit), I felt my mouth begin to move, and I heard myself saying it. I tried to catch it on the way out, but I was too late. There, in my thick British accent, I turned round and said, "Sorry".

What?! Sorry?! Could I possibly have been any more British?! I might as well have been wearing coat tails, a top hat, and been draped in a Union Jack and said, "Oh sorry old chap, I seem to have been somewhat of an inconvenience by standing here. I should have known that you were planning to pass through the small area that I occupied. If you would allow me to extract myself from under your body, I will remove myself from your presence and allow you to continue with your life." It puzzles me how I am supposed to blend in when my subconsious is wired to produce such ridiculous reactions.

In hindsight, I suppose what I should have said would have been more along the lines of, "You moron! Do you not look where you are going?! How hard is it to tell if somebody is in front of you or not? Or maybe I have suddenly gained the power of invisibility! Is it time for me to start wearing my underwear over my clothes and prance round in tights until a film is made about me? No? Well, I suggest that next time you are walking around you spend less time checking out passers-by on the street and occasionally look in front of yourself!" Ok, fine. That might have been a bit harsh. After all, I don't want to integrate too much. But I think that we can agree that in this case, "Sorry" can be roughly translated as, "I am ever so sorry for your general lack of intelligence and for how you must have been dropped on your head as a baby".

As long as I continue to have these reactions, I think you'll agree that I face a mahoosive task to blend in. What's more is that these moments are not just limited to the word "sorry". An absurd amount of unnecessary politeness is engrained in almost every inch of my being. And it shows. Being alone and abroad, friends and family often invite me round for a meal, and that's lovely! You cannot beat the company or the cooking of a home environment! But inevitably, at some point throughout the meal, the test will come: seconds. This is not, as one might think, a test of my self control in an attempt to diet, oh no. It is a lot more complicated than that. Often, what I want to say is, "Why thank you, it's all delicious!", but before I have had time to assess the situation, the words, "No thank you" have already left my lips. Why am I saying that?! But more importantly, how on earth do I stop?! It's not as if I can turn round a few seconds later and go, "Erm... I might have lied before. I would actually love a little more of everything please!" Come to think of it, if I ever was to diet, this problem (especially considering my overactive appetite) could prove extremely useful.

Seeing as I have little desire to starve myself silly for no other purpose than to fit into a slightly smaller pair of jeans, this aspect to my character can quite frankly bugger off as far as I'm concerned. I'd much rather not have to apologise for other people's mistakes and be able to say what I want than be left with the constant frustration of rueing what my inner British self decides for me. Until then, I guess I will just have to keep calm, carry on, and not have seconds.

Friday, 13 January 2012

The guide to tourist spotting

tour•ist (tourists)
A person who is visiting a place for pleasure and interest, especially when they are on holiday

Just in case you didn't know, that is the dictionary definition for, you've guessed it, a tourist. Although it seems silly to explain this, it is important that we know exactly what they are. For the past five months I have desperately struggled to disguise myself in an attempt to blend in with the locals, and on the whole, I think I have managed it. Well, on the surface, at least; I still stand in queues, carry English money, and get overly excited when I catch a glimpse of the sun. 

It will take some time to iron out these deeply rooted British habits, but until then, I feel that I should pass on my wisdom and experience, for as we all know, it is the nightmare of every middle-class Englishman to be seen as a tourist. The conversation between a couple packing for holiday includes many uses of the following phrases: "No! You cannot be seen in that!", "I threw that out months ago... Where on earth did you find it?!"' and, "Remember the sun-cream... Yeah, factor 100...", in an attempt to prepare themselves for instant integration. As you might have guessed, these snide remarks are generally directed towards the man in the family or relationship. Belonging to the male species myself, I believe I speak for all men when I say that we find this thoroughly offensive, since if we even dreamed of saying such things to our partners (for all women reading, this is something we never, ever do), chaos, screaming, and general peril would quickly ensue. Anyway, before I am lured into ranting about double standards for the sexes, I believe it is time to introduce the subject of today's post: "The Guide to Tourist Spotting".

Preface: The species homotouristus has several varying breeds of character, often distinguished by the subject's age and company. Mannerisms between groups of single males, for example, are very different to those of a middle-aged couple. Within this guide I have neglected to define which feature belongs to which breed, but it should be fairly self explanatory.

Physical description:

The most common sighting of a homotouristus sees him wearing overly short shorts whatever the weather, shoes (generally sandals) accompanied by grey socks pulled as close as possible to the knee, a khaki or beige shirt decorated with a magnitude of sweat patches, and the essential bum-bag faithfully strapped at his waist. Their weapon of choice, a camera, hangs around their necks, ready to capture images to be stored on their computer's hard-drive, never to be seen again. Please note that several spotters have confirmed rare sightings of the common homotouristus with sunglasses lenses clipped on to their glasses. These tourists must be avoided at all costs unless you truly want to hear a lengthy, dreary speech about the quality of their flight and accommodation, the list of their allergies, and the names of all their plants that they left behind at home. 

Biologically, they often boast pale, pasty skin, a squishy build, a receeding hairline, and depending on sun exposure, their coloration can vary from looking overly embarrassed to a sun-dried tomato. 


Clutching their faithful maps in their pudgy hands, many wear a puzzled expression whilst wandering around towns and places of cultural interest, glancing between their maps and street-signs. However, when herds of 10 or more males gather, this generally timid species becomes extremely rowdy, disturbing everybody around them whilst they pursue their quest of finding a mate. 

Aside from this difference, any interaction with the locals remains the same across all breeds. Many will attempt to speak the native language in their own accent, but their purposefully patronising tone inevitably gets them nowhere. Once this has failed, they will then resort to a series of over-expressive hand gestures followed by a period of tutting, muttering how the locals should learn to speak English.  

Known locations:

Due to the varying characteristics of the homotouristus, there is no one place that can be attributed to them as a species. However, they can be found at places of cultural interest (monuments, museums, art galleries etc), land marks, or slowly frying themselves on the beach. As night begins to fall, however, hundreds flock to the watering hole (bars) to drink their fill, and can later be seen stumbling back to their hotels', cursing as they walk into lampposts and other objects in the street. 

Aside from the above locations, it has often been reported of lone males standing outside shopping centres looking glum. Do not think, dear readers, that they are upset because they have forgotten to pick up some local currency. Instead, they are simply patiently waiting whilst their partners browse the retailers' outlets within. 

Disclaimer: I, the writer of this post and of "The Guide to Tourist Spotting", take no responsibility to those offended by the above information. If you do happen to take offence, please feel free to keep your complaints and opinions to yourself.

And so that concludes my guide. Compiled purely from experience, stereotypes and a good dose of British sarcasm, feel free to use this information at any time. Be it for your own amusement whilst tourist spotting or to help you gain a fuller understanding of the group you are trying to disguise yourself from, I'll leave it up to you. 

Thursday, 12 January 2012

And in the Queen's money that is?

Going on holiday is very different to moving abroad. Obvious though it is, that's about the most profound summary of my situation that I can muster. Spectacularally moving, isn't it? It's just a shame that the actual action of making the transition between countries didn't go the same way. Due to my obsessive tendency to overpack and the length of time I would be spending abroad, after several attempts at repacking, I was still left with a gargantuous, bulging suitcase and a single thought: "Somehow, I don't think that will weigh 23kg..." Oh, how right I was. A few hours later I found myself dragging this mahoosive abomination of a suitcase round and round Heathrow airport looking for the right check-in desk, which as always, is situated as far away as possible from the entrance that you came in through. 

Once I managed to stumble into the queue, after several minutes spent regaining my breath and nursing my exhausted arm, it was my turn. The moment of truth. Casually, I heaved my luggage onto the scales, using all my energy to prevent myself from vocalising my discomfort and to keep the nonchalant look on my face. 29kg. Not good. So, naturally, as any good Brit would do, I began to argue. Somehow, they couldn't understand my reasoning that people fatter than me would automatically be carrying more weight onto the plane and they are not forced to compensate this in any way. It's good to know that's how my brain responds under pressure. In the end, however, sanity kicked in and after explaining my situation, I was eventually allowed to  check-in and progress towards security. 

With hindsight, it seems certain that Britain had wanted me to give me a final taste of its rather frustrating and strange logic before I left. Flight protocols now demand us to package all of our liquids into clear, plastic zippy bags, just to make sure they are safe to be taken aboard. Fair enough, I guess. So I began the long and lengthy process of rummaging through my hand luggage, sealing my liquids in individual bags, and then replacing them. However, the poor numpty on the table opposite wasn't paying attention, and insisted that I repeat the proccess for his benefit. In order to avoid a confrontation with security, I reluctantly obliged, and successfully managed to contain my complaints. But really, both of us didn't really want to be there so what would have been the harm with letting me pass through and each one of us getting on with our lives?! That's the British mindset I guess. However, once I had finally finished redressing myself after an over-invasive security check, the final hurdle to leaving Britain was approaching: currency exchange. 

I love having foreign money. Not only does it make me feel all windswept and interesting, but due to a wonderful thing called exchange rates, I instantly feel as if I have more. Sadly though, those doing the exchanging are aware of this and take advantage of our distracted state. Well, at least that's what it seems to me, since every time I exchange money, a portion of my finances magically disappears in the transaction. Offering us the opportunity to exchange one pound for a greater amount of a different currency, whilst we are marvelling at our 'intelligence' for the 'bargain' we have just made, I am sure that they must pocket a few quid. Now, I have been told that there are taxes or other such evil measures levied onto currency exchange, but it remains difficult to escape from the scenario that my over-active imagination has provided me with. 

However, all that is now in the past. Being in my fifth month abroad, surely, one would think, that by now I should be adjusted to the new currency. Oh, how wrong one could be. Whenever I find myself with the need to pay for something, which happens quite regularly as you could imagine, I am still, after all this time, unable to deduce whether something is expensive or not. Standing at the front of the queue, struggling to cope with the simple mental arithmetic that I should have perfected in the early years of my childhood, it takes me a good few moments to work out the true value of my Diet Coke. Furthermore, the speed of this process is not helped in any way by the frustrated locals muttering, what I can only assume to be complaints, behind my back. 

I have always said to myself that I will cease to be a tourist when I am able to speak the language and be comfortable with the currency. Seeing as I am still unable to understand the criticisms that my fellow queue-ees so eagerly offer, and that in my wallet, I am embarrassed to say, I still carry around a few pennies, I am pretty sure that this moment has not come.  Judging by my progress, this milestone does not seem likely to reached for an awfully long time.