Wednesday, January 31
great great british things
sally tagged enid and enid tagged abu dhabbling. stephen’s post in response made enid think about the things she misses when she’s living abroad. (annette’s post just made enid jealous.)
stephen said “the smell of the plants.” well, enid supposes that’s more an abu dhabi thing. all that sand must get a bit much after a while, not even wet enough to make sandcastles. we get greenery in molvania, when it’s not covered in snow that is. (see later)
stephen said “fish and chips”. for sure. enid and the man once had 6 hours in gatwick before their onward flight. what to do with 6 hours of britain? they hired a car, drove to the seaside, walked along the beach and then found a café with a view of the pier and ordered fish and chips. result. (enid and the man have one of those fundamental differences over chips, that really they both should have considered hard before they got married. the sad truth is, the man likes gravy on his chips. meat gravy, with fish. sorry, but there it is - enid has married a culinary philistine. everyone knows it should be curry sauce.)
stephen said “country pubs by rivers on summer nights”. well, yes, of course. one of the best things ever about britain - those long summer nights combined with a bit of good weather. to make it perfect you should add old friends, the sort you can really relax with. for those of you who haven’t visited britain recently, the good weather not as rare as it used to be. global warming has its upside... perhaps.
frost, stephen? like the green smell thing, this is not a thing enid misses. if you had 30 cm of snow on your window sill, you’d not be missing it much either. enid chose today’s photo just for you - it was taken a couple of days ago.
ok, so what else does enid miss then?
(one) when you live abroad, you get used to everyone around you speaking foreign. there’s your language, the one for you and the man, and then there’s the other one (especially if it’s russian, but even if it’s french, which enid does speak.) and then you fly home, and you’re sitting on the tube, and the person sitting next to you speaks to the person opposite... in english. and that part of your brain which has been used to not understanding a bleeding word of what’s going on pops up a little alert, saying “english person! english person! that person beside you is english!” and then you have to tell your brain to stop being so silly, because you’re in central london, and of course everyone’s english (mostly).
this reminds enid of her father’s 65th birthday. it was soon after she and the man had returned to the uk from living in tokyo for two years. they took her parents to france on a day trip, and had lunch in a nice restaurant. when the man wanted some water, he turned and called to the waiter in japanese: “sumimasen!” the waiter was a little taken aback; this wasn’t what english people usually did in boulogne-sur-mer.
(two) enid misses banter. banter in the pub, banter in the newsagent and on the bus. nice, moany, british banter with an ironic edge. she likes it that shop assistants aren’t too smarmy (like the us) or rude (france). she likes it that they leave you alone for just the right amount of time, instead of rushing up saying “my name’s morticia, how can i help you?” (us) or painting their nails and sneering when you clearly want to buy something (france).
(three) enid misses british fonts. the signs in britain are a nice helvetica, clear, large - on the downside perhaps a bit shouty. the us is too fond of serif fonts, which combined with its odd penchant for degrees fahrenheit and measurements in feet and inches, makes it seem a bit stuffy and old fashioned. french signs have a really odd font, and the letters are just that bit too small for the size of the sign, leaving too much white (or rather, blue or green) space. and molvania uses cyrillic, of course, which is just plain perverse. remind enid to bang on about the invention of cyrillic, and for that matter, katakana, sometime.
other expats, what odd things do you miss about home?