What did Europe ever do for you...


As we waive bye-bye to the EU can we not acknowledge that Europe has made some small beneficial contributions to English life? In the old days before dear old Blighty got friendly with Johnny Foreigner and joined what was then the European Economic Community, life in Britain was a tad dreary. Our European friends gave us modern bathrooms. 40 years ago English bathrooms were a place so opposed to change it would have made North Korea look like Narnia. A blindfolded Victorian would have had no trouble finding his way about. Firstly we had no mixer taps! I would run a separate hot and cold tap in a basin and wave my hands about like a magician to balance out freezing cold and burning hot. In a bath my left foot poached but my right one got chilblains. A shower cubicle was seen a waste of a linen cupboard and anyway, if I wanted a shower I could always attach what looked like a large rubber stethoscope to the bath hot and cold taps and hose myself down.....until one flew off so hot water boiled my feet and the cold froze my head till my hair crackled. A bidet was a rather quaint invention only ever found in foreign hotels. When I asked my mother what it was, she explained they were to wash your feet in or rinse a bathing suit. In my first flat my plumber had never been abroad and I asked him to fit one. He screwed it to the ceiling thinking it was a shower... I know we love our heritage but hanging onto a flushing system invented in Victorian times by Mr. Crapper (strange but true) seemed sticking to tradition in the extreme. In nearly every home in the 1970's there were loos with a chain with Pull written on the handle (as opposed to doing what)? Above a water tank frequently leaked and when activated made a noise like a concrete mixer. Four decades on the Brits still don't like electrical items in the bathroom so UK homes with hairdryers, electronic heated loos, make-up lighting or chargers for cell phones or tablets whilst having that all important post breakfast 'ablution' are rare. Certainly no radio nor TV! But dual taps only exist now in stuffy old clubs and Downton Abbey.

...and another thing

Food has become more varied. In 1972 an avocado was the height of decadence and the only lettuce anyone had ever seen was as limp as a dead man’s handshake. Wine was simply either red, white or rose. Orange juice for breakfast came in a packet (remember Kellogg’s Rise and Shine), bread tasted like damp cotton wool and coffee came out of a jar. A French letter was a translation exercise performed in school language classes.

...and another thing

Cultural movement was not all one way traffic. We gave as good as we got. European pop music is only one notch away from fingernails down a blackboard. We gave them Beatles, Bowie, Bolan…Germany gave us Boney M.

The charge into multi-channel pay TV in Europe was led by SKY. It caused every country in Europe to expand its offering and gave a healthy injection of creativity. With series like Versailles and Marseilles, at last France produced TV shows that sell worldwide other than The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. Sadly Germany still has a Hamster as the star of its most popular show.

Italians gave us style on the one hand but Nancy Del’ Olio on the other.  For those of you from outside the UK she is a ‘lawyer’ who has dated some very well-heeled men. She is a mixture of a fifty year old Kim Kardashian and Courtney Cox from Cougar Town. I suspect she has his ‘n’ her matching T-Shirts saying Gold mine and Gold Digger. We gave the Italians the mini-skirt, mini-car but also football hooliganism.

The Costa Brava in Spain gave us cheap vacations and Rave Parties… we gave them our criminals seeking to avoid extradition.

The Belgians gave us Brussel Sprouts, Tintin and chocolate… we gave them David Suchet as Poirot and a cycling team that won without cheating.

This week I return to the UK, but for now Malta is home. Our home has a shower, mixer taps, avocados in the garden and allegedly using a magic box. I can access TV from all over the world. I even watched Versailles…

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