Thursday, October 05, 2006

What Have They Done To The Old Country?

Now, a visit to the Old Country always causes me some concern. Not least of which is what the heck have they done to coins? Not content with getting rid of sixpences, shillings, two bobs and half-crowns, a coin that was once 5 pence in ‘new’ money (the old shilling) has now been replaced with a thing that is half the size. The old 2 shilling coin (the ‘new’ ten pence piece) is now the same size as the old 5 pence piece. Confused? I was. It seems that all coins are made smaller these days. Perhaps this reflects the true value of the coins, and also makes it difficult for old people with arthritis to pick up the coins. They haven’t changed the size of the one pound coin, which if sufficient numbers are filled into an old sock, makes a very useful weapon when swung to repel yobs, of which there seems to be millions of them. Crime seems to be out of control. We hear almost daily of a kid stealing a car, and killing a pedestrian or another driver. And all they get is a couple of years in jail. After all, the poor things have rights, but the victims seem not to.

Another concern is manners. For example, in the US, when you go to the check-out at a supermarket, you are greeted with politeness and a ‘How are you’. What do you get in the UK? Not even a grunt. I tried hard to be nice, but was almost arrested for accosting a young check-out lady. All I did was greet her in a civil manner. Standing at one bar waiting to be served was an experience to be missed. The bartender came up, looked at me, and moved his head backwards in a rapid movement. I later found out that this was not an affliction, but a form of sign language which means, ‘What do you want to drink?’ At the pub, I merely echoed this head movement, until eventually the bartender spoke to me - he told me to leave.

Measurements et al. We are now informed that something is 20 meters tall and 40 centimeters wide. Temperature is given in Celsius, and weights are in grams. What all this means, I have no idea. I’m told that the UK is now part of Europe, so there is nothing to be done. So the country adopts the French way of doing things. I just hope we don’t learn the art of waving white flags. I’d still like to know who won the War.

Now for some interesting and positive stuff. I stayed in Birmingham (England, not Alabama), a city which is steeped in history, and a dialect which makes the S’thern US accent sound like the Queen’s English. A learned professor once said that regional accents would die out with the advent of TV. Never trust a learned professor or an expert. In Birmingham, one doesn’t ask for the restroom, one asks for the larpom. And you can go out of an evening and get ‘bosti fittle’ in a pub or a restaurant – good food. Safta means ‘this afternoon’. So a sentence uttered could be, ‘Safta, Ar bin gunnyarta get some bosti fittle after gunna to the larpom and put me stroids on.’

Every time I make a visit, I realize how much I miss two great things – pork pies and sausage rolls. I had two of each every day when I was there. Naturally, there is no cholesterol and no fat in them…. Yeah, right! With a dab of brown fruity sauce, there is nothing better. Unfortunately, several purveyors of these wonders have started adding the dreaded onion to them. Why in heck ruin the taste of good food? They’ll next add garlic!

One last comment on the state of the UK. The smell of diesel is everywhere. As is the clatter from the engines. I understand that diesels are supposed to be more economical, but the noise, black smoke and the smell are awful. I can’t imagine my old Morris 1000 making such pollution.

Here endeth today’s lesson.