Saturday, 7 June 2008

Watching the English

Pont - The Importance of Tea

'Watching the English" analyses the characteristics of the English through the eyes of an anthropologist, Kate Fox. It's a marvellously amusing and perceptive read. Particularly accurately, she finds the English 'the most socially inept race on earth', covering up their permanenent state of embarassment with attempted humour and mock-ironic observations.

"She puts the English national character under her anthropological microscope, and finds a strange and fascinating culture, governed by complex sets of unspoken rules and Byzantine codes of behaviour. Her minute observation of the way we talk, dress, eat, drink, work, play, shop, drive, flirt, fight, queue – and moan about it all – exposes the hidden rules that we all unconsciously obey.

The rules of weather-speak. The Importance of Not Being Earnest rule. The ironic-gnome rule. The reflex-apology rule. The paranoid-pantomime rule. Class indicators and class-anxiety tests. The money-talk taboo. Humour rules. Pub etiquette. Table manners. The rules of bogside reading. The dangers of excessive moderation. The eccentric-sheep rule. The English 'social dis-ease'.

Through a mixture of anthropological analysis and her own unorthodox experiments, using herself as a reluctant guinea-pig, Kate Fox discovers what these unwritten behaviour codes tell us about Englishness".

I have a feeling that Kate Fox would appreciate the accuracy of Pont's observations

1 comment:

  1. I will get this book today. :-)

    27 London

    No tour of Britain is complete without a visit to London. Take a hackney carriage to Trafalgar Square, where you can feed the lions, pose for a photo with a friendly British 'bobby' and gasp in astonishment at Nelson's enormous column. Walk to Buckingham Palace in time to watch the sovereign emerge in her golden state coach; then head for Covent Garden to enjoy the cockney accents of burly barrow boys and pretty flower girls selling poises outside the Royal Opera House.

    In the evening, travel east and drop into one of the many pubs along the old Kent Road frequented by Pearly Kings and Queens, who will teach you to do the Hokey Kokey or Lambeth Walk. After a pint of mild and a plate of jellied eels, make your way back to Westminster. Take up a position between Abbey and Parliament. Put your hands over your wallet, close your eyes, and as Big Ben begins to chime, you will surely say to yourself: I have had the time of my life!

    Expressions to learn
    You put your left leg in, your left leg out...

    Avoid saying
    Are you sure you're taking me the most direct route, cabbie?

    How to be British, Collection 1 (Martyn Ford & Peter Legon)

    28 Mind the Gap

    The London Underground is full of romance: the names of the stations along evoke the glories of English history and legend: Knightsbridge, Baker Street, Marble Arch, Angle, Temple, Swiss Cottage, Arnos Grove, Turnham Green... Take a deep breath and plunge far below the streets of the capital city by escalator or gleaming lift into the 253 miles of the windy tunnels that make up the 'Tube'. Once aboard a train, the overseas visitor is reminded that silence is compulsory and that loud conversation or laughter may cause the train to come to a sudden stop. As you sit waiting in the dark, your mind will be teeming with questions: "Should I have changed at Gloucester Road? How will I read all the advertisement? How do you pronounce 'Marylebone'? What if I fall asleep and wake up at Cockfoster?"

    Expressions to learn
    Is this where I alight for Brompton Oratory?
    I need a southbound Northern Line service, Waterloo branch.