Saturday, September 18, 2010

British foibles. And pavlova.

 Ah, I hear you say to yourself, I wondered when she would start on the foibles of the British. Don’t worry, I have only been here three weeks so I’m still at the stage of benign amusement.
Take today’s Guardian story on the US Tea Party, the rabid right-wingers who are doing for the US what Pauline Hansen did for Australia. The British take on it? And I quote:
                ‘Colour! Pearls! Hair! Get the Tea Party look’

Today’s paper also has a report on the Queen meeting the pope, ‘one all in white and the other in duck-egg blue.’ It seems Her Maj invited His Holi into the morning drawing room at Holyroodhouse (in Edinburgh) saying ‘It’s warmer in here’; which resulted in someone called the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland waiting in the wrong room and missing the whole thing. And what could be said about the fact that Holyroodhouse is uncomfortably cold, and this whole meeting is taking place in Scotland? The battle between the humanists and the Catholics rages unabated on the Letters page, both sides landing punches.

And what is it with the verbosity of the English? It is as if here, in the heartland of the world’s lingua franca, its custodians just luxuriate in its nuances. Take just one example: where you or I might draft a sign saying ‘Do not feed the birds’, the English will prefer ‘Please do not feed the birds because their droppings cause immense damage and expense in repairing it’.

When they do manage something succinct, such as the famous ‘Mind the gap’, they are so pleased with it that it becomes a slogan and is printed on t-shirts. And even that one is part a longer more verbose version: ‘Mind the gap between the train and the platform edge’.

Then there is the large sign I see from the train on the way to Waterloo: ‘British Interplanetary Society’. What could it mean? I know they were great colonisers (indeed I am the result of that activity) but do British eyes look even farther afield than Australia?

And may I have some suggestions for the possible meaning of this completely mysterious sign, seen in a shop-front window somewhere near Battersea:
                ‘Fly Tippers will be Prosecuted’

And of course mention must be made of the wonderful pub names, found on most corners. I can see the derivation of name like ‘The Jolly Gardener’ or even ‘Skinner’s Arms’; but have to wonder about ‘Elephant on the Hill”.

Tonight was ex-pat party night at Kyle’s house. Well, mostly ex-pats. He – and Andy - cooked hamburgers on the BBQ, and delicious jacket potatoes bought from Borough Market. I was in charge of the pavlova, which I am pleased was cooked to perfection and eaten very swiftly. It was also Rachel’s birthday, so an excellent reason for champagne (if one is needed!) 

I managed to deliver another large suitcase of Stuff to St Pan’s, as well as buy birthday presents, candles and sparklers (hmm...). Moreover, Prof Natalie and her sister Tanya arrived in London today and I went to find them in Mayfair. My first visitors! After being stuck in Pope-affected traffic (the pontiff is in town) we all three made it back to Earlsfield for the party.

Natalie & Tanya and The Long Ride In A Black Cab

And tomorrow I’m off to Hamburg for the weekend – more opera! ‘Bliss’ again, in the German version, with Simone Young conducting.

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