Thursday, August 10, 2006

And they call us uncivilised

There's only so many things you can say about the country of England, and I assure you, most of them are bad. For example, their persistence in lining every single public park, walkway, or other form of recreational area with stinging nettles. Or, if you prefer, their ongoing refusal to recognise the invention of air conditioners. Despite the 40 degree heat. And 50 degree public transport system.

I spent quite some time there sitting in the flat, waiting for a whole chain of natural disasters to occur. Why? Because day after day, the TV weather guide kept fucking warning us - with big red exclaimation marks mind you - that there would be flash floods, thunderstorms, and ohmygod HAIL! So there I was, all wrapped up in my pj's, popcorn in hand, waiting for the show to begin. So... what happened? There was a light summer shower. A motherfucking light summer shower. Craptacular. But enough of the BBC weather services; let us move on to the people of England.

The first thing that will strike many visitors to the UK, is the fact no one appears to actually speak English. The only similarity between the English we speak, and the language Britons appear to use is the actual name - 'English'. These people are totally bloody incoherent! After a few days of smiling and nodding at people talking enthusiastically about christ knows what, it dawned on me that they sound just like me... when I'm totally off my fucking face. For example;

Rantolotl on a night out: Garble garble garble! *slosh* GARBLE! *thump*
Translation - Look at that wanker over there... being a wanker. He thinks he's so fucking good. I'm going to go and steal his bag! No! Even better! His moustache! *falls over*

An Englishman: Garble garble garble! *slosh* GARBLE! *thump*
Translation - Would you like another cup of tea, Reginald? Yes? One lump or two? Excellent, old chap!

But does it stop there? No, of course it fucking doesn't. Not only can we not understand them, they cannot understand us. I expected this to some extent, given most people manage to have no idea what I'm talking about at the best of times, but I thought we could at least have a mutual understanding of alcohol. I mean, for fucks sake; Australia - nation of beer drinkers & piss heads. England - nation of beer drinkers & piss heads. But no. I couldn't even order a fucking beer without coming across some sort of stupid language problem. The oddest incidence of which occurred at a so called castle (which I might add had no right to call itself such. For starters, it didn't even have a single alligator.);

Cafe girl: What would you like?
Rantolotl: Hmm. What's the soup of the day?
Cafe girl: *grunt*
Rantolotl: Never mind. I'll have the soup of the day (pointing at the menu). And a beer. Becks.
Cafe girl: Okay. (She walks off, comes back a minute later) So. Soup, and earl grey tea, was it?
Rantotlotl: What? No. A beer. (At this point I picked up the menu and pointed directly at the item claiming to be Becks Beer)
Cafe girl: Tea?
Rantolotl: BEER.
Cafe girl: *confused look*
Rantolotl: A BOTTLE of BEER, please.
Cafe girl: Beer?
Rantolotl: Yes!
Cafe girl: Ah! Okay!

Getting a beer should never be such hard work. Christ, and don't even get me started on ordering a lemon, lime & bitters*. That was one fucking bizarre moment. The barperson accepted my order, walked off, and then came back looking confused, and then offered to pour half a pint of bitter (beer), and mix it with half a fucking lemon & a bottle of soda water. Needless to say, I declined said offer, and then avoided drinking anything that didn't come in a clearly labelled bottle.

The food really isn’t much better. Only in the UK, could you ever find a whole street full of signs claiming to sell curries, chinese, pizza, burgers and fried chicken – all from the same shopfront. Out of amusement, I decided to visit one of the classier varieties of said establishments (this shop only claimed to only sell chinese take outs and fish & chips). Upon perusing the menu, I noticed all the standard varieties of anglo-fied chinese food, including the usual plethora of meals that have never even been heard of by the nation of China. And then it struck me. Curry BBQ Pork on fried rice (with egg). I promptly ordered it (without egg), accompanied by a canister of mushy peas (which I was later told was meant to go with the fish & chips). I’m not going to say it was bad, but I will say it was the oddest cross-cuisine fusion you’ll never see in a reputable restaurant.

Even better yet are the market stalls. It’s like they consider them to be a sport or something. They’re actually really quite reminiscent of betting shops during a big race. Lots of yelling, flailing of arms, a general air of chaos, money flying. The only real difference is the markets feature cabbages.

Imagine it. A stallholder, standing behind a table filled with vegetables in bowls. He shouts enthusiastically, attempting to gain custom from the street void of all life, bar one mangy, three legged cat, huddled against a wall ‘Quid a bowl! Just a quid for any bowl on the table! Look at these lovely apples! Just a quid a bowl! And just at that moment, a hapless bystander passes by on his way to the bus stop. Hmm.’, he thinks to himself. Apples. That seems like a good price. And I could do with something healthy after all those fried chicken pizza burgers.’. He approaches the stall, and things start to get out of control.

‘You want some of me lovely apples do ya? A fine choice, sir! Excellent choice! You’re a smart man, I can see that! You won’t regret this purchase, I assure you! Fine, quality apples, and at just a quid! You can’t get better than that, can ya?’

The hapless customer looks around cautiously, trying to work out if he’s still buying apples, or if he’s somehow managed to step into the middle of some scam in Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. Seeing no evidence of antique guns, sacks of cash, or knives, he takes one last look at the bowl of apples, just to check that they’ve not become some strange form of three-card-monty. Satisfied, he removes a pound from his wallet, and hands it to the stallholder.

The stallholder keeps talking loudly. The customer gets agitated and keeps reaching for the apples the stallholder is enthusiastically swinging around. The stallholder cluelessly keeps talking, oblivious to the money being waved in front of him. The customer gets increasingly agitated. 'JUST GIVE ME THE FUCKING APPLES!' he yells. The stallholder takes his pound note, gives the customer his apples, and starts loudly congratulating the gentleman in question for making such a wise decision and excellent purchase. The now thoroughly confused customer takes his apples, and walks off, looking around to see if anyone else is at all stunned, shocked or confused by the rather odd transaction that just took place. The stallholder takes this opportunity to loudly point this man out to every person (and cat) on the street, as the most brilliant man in all of town for being so clever as to buy a bag of apples. No one seems to notice.

Unbelievably, this shit actually happens. It was totally maddening. I started pretending I didn’t speak English, just so I wouldn’t have to deal with these fucking people. It’s like stepping back into the 18th century, just with more bowls of vegetables, less hygiene, and more tories. Fucking weird. Although, to be fair, not as weird as the strips of half-cooked pig skin that are sold as snacks in their pubs. *Grolsh*

Moral of the story, leave the UK alone. There are plenty of other places in the world to visit that are less mad. Or just as mad, but at least in an endearing manner. If you must go, make sure you take an English-English dictionary. It will help you immensley.

*FYI: A lemon, lime & bitters for those not in the know, is a low alcohol drink that consists of lime cordial (real lime cordial, not that flouro green shit), a slice of lemon, glass topped up with soda water, and a couple of dashes of Agnostura bitters (the alcoholic component).


Bozza said...

That was an excellent post! JOLLY GOOD SHOW RANTOLOTL! The only part of the post where I cringed was the story about the Cafe girl, it reminded me of The Simpsons comes to Australia episode (I'm still annoyed with Channel 10 for playing that one to death). Apart from that it was good post.

For the record, whilst I personally wouldn't mind visiting the UK, it would be at the bottom of my list. Given the high exchange rate of £ there are plenty of places that are better value and have much more interesting tourist attractions (so far I've been to Italy, Singapore and Egypt oh and UAE if you count the Dubai Airport). Next place I'd like to go would be Canada, Turkey and/or Greece.

CJ said...

If truth be told the rantolotl had a very nice time in old london town...when she wasn't puking up or lying on the couch complaining about the heat. She damned well enjoyed herself and don't let her tell you anything different...

Kipper said...

Isn't Angostura Bitters supposed to be some proud Anglo-Carribean tradition? Christ, the British don't even know their own products.

Kipper said...

But now you know how I feel talking to shop people in France sometimes.
The other day it was like, "which quiche do you want?" "that one there, the salmon one" "what?" "salmon (saumon)" "what?" "salmon" "what? ham? (jambon)" "no! salmon!" "oh! salmon?" "yes!!! and it's not like your fucked up bordelais accent is any more comprehensive than my anglophone accent!"

Kipper said...

sorry, that should read "comprehensible"

Joanne said...

Great article. I woulda took you to where actual food could be had, if I wasn't skint.

In a perverse kinda way this reminds me of when the Simpsons went to Australia...

Marge: Can I get a coffee please?
Barman: One beer.
Marge: No, a coffee.
Barman: Beer?
Marge: Cof-fee...
Barman: Be-er...

Bozza said...

Spot on Joanne! I thought the same when I was reading Rantolotl's story about the cafe girl!