Thursday, December 06, 2007

Little missed

A quote from Liam Byrne, Immgration Minister, about the things people would miss if they left Britain:

"And so are the little things that sometimes mean everything; a cup of tea, pubs, cider, the BBC, queuing, proper chocolate, fish and chips, darts, fashion, the seasons and countryside, walks and clubbing."

Well, I've left Britain (more than once) and I take issue with some of this. Okay, I'll grant you a cup of tea, fish and chips, pubs and even darts. No-one does these better than the Brits, although with darts many would ask why they'd want to.

I'll also allow the seasons and countryside and walks, because there is something green and pleasant about Britain's land, and a summer's afternoon at a village cricket ground, or a ramble down some quiet dale is an experience rarely exceeded.

At a push we can include the BBC in things that we miss. Not because the TV series are always outstandingly brilliant - most of them are total rubbish (ever watched the Beeb during the day? Don't bother) - but because foreign TV really is awful and the only good things on most European channels are the expensive American imports (CSI, 24 and what have you). The BBC's real advantage comes in radio, which I do miss, although I listen online quite a lot.

But is Liam Byrne really suggesting that in Britain people eat "proper" chocolate? Has he been to Belgium? Or Switzerland? Those two countries know a thing about cocoa-based confectionery beyond the dreaded Dairy Milk. British chocolate is cheap by international standards, and there is a wide variety available, but let's not kid ourselves it's better than everyone else's.

And fashion?? Brits are terribly dressed, most of the time. You don't see thongs peeping out of the top of jeans in civilised countries, you know. Go to France to see fashion. Crikey.

What surprises me most, though, is that anyone could miss clubbing in the UK (I'll add queuing to this because at so many tacky British clubs, you need to queue for ages in the freezing rain at the whim of some jumped up doorman.). Perhaps if you go to a really classy joint (you don't see Liam Byrne in Chicago's) the experience in Britain is OK, but generally it's sweaty and unpleasant. The grisly attempts of every crew-cut drunk to pull the lariest secretary from the inevitable hen party pervade the atmosphere, the unpleasantness of which is only exceeded by the underlying booze-fuelled sense of violence and aggression, which generally spills over outside some nasty kebab/fried chicken shop. All to bloody Dancing Queen and assorted other "cheesy" favourites. Most people in Britain (i.e. those who live in soulless provincial towns and cities) only go to clubs because they're the only places you can get alcohol after midnight. The whole thing is ghastly: go out for a good time, come back with chlamydia.

Abroad, people actually go to clubs to listen to music, and dance, and have fun. And generally they succeed. No-one who's tried a decent night out in Lisbon would be seen dead in a club in the UK.

As for me, the thing I miss most is the British notion that every silver lining has a cloud. You know, making the worst of a situation: the Olympics will be a an expensive failure; all our politicians are sleaze-ridden fools; it doesn't matter who's the England manager, the players are overpaid and lazy anyway. It's as if British people have a masochistic streak, and are enduring life, rather than enjoying it. If Britain was a fictional character, it would be Eeyore. Everone else is Tigger, bouncing enthusiastically, except Scandinavian countries, who are Owl. And cos I'm a bit curmudgeonly, I quite miss that.


Beaman said...

I missed queuing when I lived in Germany. The good old fashioned system of standing in line is not understood by many in Continental Europe. I had old grannies barging their way through me when getting on a bus and train. Took a little while to get used to.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Brilliant post and I am with you on everything, I think. [Well, I can't eat fish but that's splitting hairs.] I desperately miss Radio 4 but , like you, listen online when I can. I wouldn't know about darts. And you're right about fashion - no Italian woman would dress so carelessly as the Brits. Totally agree on chocolate. Of course, here in Modica we have the original, very strong stuff with no dairy products whatsoever as ingredients. I, too, miss that "pride in failure and so what?" aspect of British life - the glorious ability to laugh at ourselves.

Matt Biant said...

Oh you are a cynic Mr Griffiths! Personally I miss good old British curry and kebabs, not to mention that you cannot get a decent bit of back bacon in the US! And I do miss darts too!

Season Greetings to you and baaah humbug!!!