Ah, Britain...

Just for fun....an excerpt from Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island:

There are certain idiosyncratic notions that you quietly come to accept when you live for a long time in Britian. One is that British summers used to be longer and sunnier. Another is that the England football team shouldn't have any trouble with Norway. A third is the idea that Britian is a big place. This last is easily the most intractable.

If you mention in a pub that you intend to drive from, say, Surrey to Cornwall, a distance most Americans would happily go to get a taco, your companions will puff their cheeks, look knowingly at each other, and blow out air as if to say, 'Well, now that's a bit of a tall order', and then they'll launch into a lively and protracted discussion of whether it's better to take the A30 to Stockbridge and then the A303 to Ilchester or the A361 to Glastonbury via Shepton Mallet. Within minutes the conversation will plunge off into a level of detail that leaves you, as a foreigner, swiveling your head in quiet wonderment.

'You know that layby outside Warminster, the one with the grit box with the broken handle?' one of them will say. 'You know, just past the turnoff for Little Puking but before the B6029 mini-roundabout. By the dead sycamore.'

At this point, you find you are the only person in the group not nodding vigorously.

...Eventually, when the intricacies of B-roads, contra-flow backspots and good places to get a bacon sandwich have been discussed so thoroughly that your ears have begun to seep blood, one member of the party will turn to you and idly ask over a sip of beer when you were thinking of setting off. When this happens, you must never answer truthfully and say, in that kind of dopey way of yours, 'Oh, I don't know, about ten, I suppose', because they'll all be off again.

'Ten o'clock?' one of them will say and try to back his head off his shoulders. 'As in ten o'clock a.m.?' He'll make a face like someone who's taken a cricket ball in the groin but doesn't want to appear wimpy because his girlfriend is watching. 'Well it's entirely up to you, of course, but personally if I was planning to be in Cornwall by three o'clock tomorrow, I'd have left yesterday.'

'Yesterday?' someone else will say, chortling softly at this misplaced optimism. 'I think you're forgetting, Colin, that it's half-term in North Wiltshire and West Somerset this week. It'll be murder between Swindon and Warminster. No, you want to have left a week last Tuesday.'

'And there's the Great West Steam Rally at Little Dribbling this weekend,' somebody from across the room will add, strolling over to join you because it's always pleasant to bring bad motoring news. 'There'll be 375,000 cars all converging on the Little Chef roundabout at Upton Dupton. We once spent eleven days in a tailback there, and that was just to get out of the car park. No, you want to have left when you were still in your mother's womb...and even then you won't find a parking space beyond Bodmin.'

Once, when I was younger, I took all these alarming warnings to heart...[but] the fact is that the British have a totally private sense of distance.

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