Bits of Blighty that drive me batty..... but I'll miss


As I waive a fond farewell to my friends, I ponder on some of the idiosyncrasies of this green and pleasant land that I shall miss..... Well firstly it's green because it is constantly watered. The global drizzle that has engulfed the UK over the past few years has had me checking my elbows and knees in the mirror to make sure my joints have not gone rusty. Yes I know that in flaming July in Malta when it is hot enough to poach an egg in my underpants I might miss the grey skies. So in case rose tinted spectacles appear on the bridge of my nose, I have kept a photo on my phone as a reminder. It is of my garden in June last summer when an Olympic diver could have performed a pike with a double twist off my roof and landed on the lake that now covered my flooded lawn and barely touch the grass below, even with an elegantly extended arm.

...and another thing

Our rich language still confuses other English speakers. While visiting a museum, my late father once told my American wife he needed to ‘spend a penny’ (meaning take a leak). He left my wife fumbling in her purse to look for a penny to give him and wondering what he needed to spend it on.

I first met some American students in my late teens in Soho (then very much London’s red light district) and they were whispering something about fags. Eager to show my ‘street cred’ I told them;

“Of course I was a fag to several older boys at Rugby School but it evened out. When I got older I had several fags myself as a senior.”

Rugby School is an old fashioned English Boarding school where ‘fag’ was the nickname given to first year students who were at the beck and call of older boys to run errands for them. On seeing the look of shock on their faces I compounded the misunderstanding by adding;

“Oh you mean the things you put in your mouths.” (Fag is slang in the UK for cigarette).

They blinked… asked how I knew about drag queens or similar and slowly edged away. Different days, different attitudes but as a case in point about my tiny little island and its quaint take on language, that little chat is set in my memory.

...and another thing

I will miss people adding the word ‘indeed’ to subtly emphasise something, ‘sorry’ when other people carelessly bump into them and using the word ‘challenging’ when they mean absolutely impossible. No more standing patiently in line for just about anything yet grumbling endlessly about how long it takes to order a drink at the bar. I will also have to get by without my countrymen’s studious avoidance of the subject of money, sex, death or religion but gleefully discussing the serious business and performance of having a pooh.

No other English speaking country uses the word lift (instead of elevators) that only in the UK start at G for Ground rather than 1. In Malta we shall mainly be eating al fresco with whatever eating irons are at hand, so my wife’s bete noir of the arcane use and laying out of cutlery will also become a distant memory.

...and another thing

The next time I return to London, the UK may have quit the EU. Sadly it is a generational issue that actually is a good example as to how undemocratic long-term referendums can be. I am not going to argue here the merit of one side or the other but with nearly all the young wanting to stay in and most of the over 50s wanting out, in ten years’ time the overwhelming majority will still want to be in as the nay sayers slowly fall off their perch (die for you non English speakers). It would therefore be a twist of democracy if the UK vote No and stay out when within a decade most of the living by then will want to be in.

...and another thing

Although Malta is an island small enough to be carpeted in an afternoon, I shall still be driving on the same side of the road as the UK with the nearest landfalls of Sicily and North Africa all driving on the right. Outside of the UK the nearest other country to drive on the left will be over 1,000 miles away in Cyprus. Just to confuse things further my wife’s car is British with the steering wheel on the right and mine is German with a steering wheel on the left!

In a month or so I shall post some updates on the mysteries from Malta but I have already learnt the evil eye (L-Ghajn) is commonly accepted as ‘a fact’ – even by the Church. However a helpful nun told me that putting a line of salt on the floor behind your front door will prevent the evil eye from entering your house. If you feel your house does have negative energies, you can cleanse it by burning olive tree leaves at midnight on Easter while saying prayers.

More of this to follow. Until then, a final farewell from me to England, my friends, their strange habits…..and the rain!

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One Comment

  1. Paola says:

    Love your post, made me very emotional

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