Tuesday 30 November 2010

Curtsey Culture

So I'm really shit(e) about keeping my promises... I promised only last week that this blog would be a William and Kate-free zone, a respite from the constant blithering about their wedding, and it still is... sort of.. I do solemly swear to not speak about their WEDDING, but this article about the aftermath of the unmentionable event was too interesting not to mention.  My apologies in advance, but I hope you will agree with me on this one.

When I was a kid, I remember practicing to curtsey.  No, not in dance class or anything, just on my own because I was a nerdy kid (no more teasing please). I dont know when I ever thought I would have a need to curtsey, but it seemed like a valuable skill to have, so I "perfected" it.  Luckily I'm not Kate Middleton or all of that practice would have gone to waste becuase it appears that after that thing we cant talk about she will only be expected to curtsey to one person - The Queen herself. 

Zara Phillips greets her Grandmother,
The Queen with a curtsey
Apparently there is a document called Precedence Of The Royal Family To Be Observed At Court, written up by the Queen's secretary after Prince Charles married Camilla which knocked Camilla down a few notches in the who curtseys to whom list, ensuring that someone like Princess Anne (the Queen's daughter) would never have to curtsey to Camilla (shudder to think!).    Before this document, the wife of Prince Charles would have come directly after the Queen and Anne and Princess Alexandra (the Queen's seemingly very important cousin) would have to curtsey to her, but the Queen's apparent lack of respect for Camilla the Commoner and the fact that Anne and Alexandra have "devoted their lives to the monarchy" sparked the change.

Interestingly, Anne apparently refused to curtsey to Diana and is expected to do the same for Kate eventhough she will technically be ranked above her.  (Me-Ow!)

As the article explains, the wife of a royal takes on the position of her husband unless he is not with her and then she is moved down in rank.  So, without William physically by her side, Kate is actually ranked below Anne, Alexandra and Prince Andrew and Fergie's daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie, since they are technically in line to the throne and royal by blood.  

Confused?  Here's the order as mandated by the Queen:
1. The Queen
2. Kate Middleton (unless she is sans Wills, which will knock her down to #6 just ahead of Camilla)
3. Princess Anne
4. Princess Beatrice
5. Princess Eugenie
6. Princess Alexandra
7. Duchess of Cornwall (Camilla)
8. Countess of Wessex (Sophie, wife of Prince Edward)
9. Lady Louise Windsor  (Sophie and Edward's daughter)
10. Zara Phillips  (Princess Anne's daughter)

 If you'd like to learn to curtsey, here is a young girl's informational video.  (Where was youtube when I was practicing in my bedroom??)

Saturday 27 November 2010

A Rather British Day Out

In a bit of retaliation for the subject of yesterday's post, I have nothing to add to this absolutely awesome spreading of British stereotypes, except a big THANK YOU to this man for making this fabulous video.

Check it out:

Friday 26 November 2010

Expats on TV?

What is it about Americans that make us fair game for jokes?  Is it "special relationship" between the US and UK that makes it funny rather than offensive to spread stereotypes about Americans?

I tuned into a new comedy show called The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret and was surprised to find the show is about an American salesman who moves to the UK to sell an American energy drink in the UK.  As you can imagine, it is full of jokes at the expense of the American character not understanding the "British way" of doing things, including him trying to make a reservation for dinner at a neighbourhood pub and making a dick out of himself when he shows up (in typical 1800's England garb) asking for his reserved table.

I tried (I really tried) to not be offended by this show and see the humour in it, but reinforcing the same stereotypes over and over again are not really funny or unique. I realize I am probably not the best audience for this show since the character's experiences (being an expat at least) are a bit too familiar, but if you are going to produce a show like this, I really suggest you come up with a few more "American characteristics" to exploit.

Here's an episode if you have a more forgiving sense of humour than me and want to check it out for yourself.  (you have to watch a bit of advertisement at the beginning)

Thursday 25 November 2010

Who goes there?

I came across an interesting article in the i newspaper today which reported a research group has discovered that 95% of Brits will open their front door to someone they don't know.  Note to unassuming British folk - this is not safe, especially now that any burglars who read the i know that there is only a 5% chance they will have to use force to break into your house - just a simple knock on the door and a bash over your head will give them access to all your jewels and computers.  

That being said, there is very much still a culture in which "just popping 'round" is acceptable and even welcomed (not strangers particularly, but definetely with friends). This surprised greatly me when I first moved here - I remember looking to my husband expecting to see my own confusion mirrored on his face when someone would come over unannounced AND uninvited, but he would just greet them as he'd been expecting them and invite them in.  I would wait for them to explain the reason (and it better be good) for unexpectedly knocking on my door making themselves a part of our day or evening, but it never happened.  My husband never asked "so what are you doing here?" or "what do you want?" nor was the cliche "I was just in the neighborhood" excuse given.  No one asked, no one explained, they just carried on as if the visit was planned. 

I'm not saying I'm offended or upset when people "pop 'round", but what if we had been doing something - Playing Monopoly?  Eating dinner?  Engaging in naked activities?   Then what?   Would you be expected to open the door anyway and turn your visitors away?   Its all very strange to me and something I will never feel comfortable with no matter how long I live here.

Not surprisingly, the article goes on to say that two-thirds of people in London "feel annoyed" when they hear an unexpected knock at the door compared to only 15% in the North-East.   Count me in the London batch;  if you want to come visit, call me first and ask me if its ok - its just good manners!

(speaking of good manners, meet Miss Manners and take a look at her books.  She even has one called Star-Spangled Manners: In Which Miss Manners Defends American Etiquette (For a Change).  This would make a perfect Christmas gift for LadyLiberty in case anyone was wondering what you should by me.. er.. her)

Monday 22 November 2010

Pop Quiz Monday

Kim @ Pass The Potatoes tagged me for this project (doesnt that sound more grown up than "quiz" or "survey"?).   I realized I simply wasnt interesting enough to have entertaining answers for most of the questions, so I only answered one, but its a three parter!

oh but first the rules:
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Paste these rules on your blog post.
3. Respond to the following prompts. (as I said, I only did one, but you can go to Kim's blog to see what the actual questions were supposed to be if you want to answer them)
4. Add a prompt of your own and answer it. ( I skipped this cause I'm a lazy cheater)
5. Tag a few other bloggers at the bottom of the post.
6. Leave "Tagged You" notices on their blog/Facebook.
7. Let the person who tagged you know when you've written the post.

Ok, now here we go...
If you could’ve written any book, directed any movie, and composed any song, which three would you pick:

: I dont write books and would never have the attention span to do it, but if could choose one that I would have liked to have written, it would be Walden.  No, I dont want to live in a cabin in the woods, but I would love to be able to claim the beautiful passages in that book as my own.  Never read Henry David Thoreau?  Put down your Twilight and go read a real book right this instant!  That's an order!

MovieTerminator 2 - I can recite this movie from start to finish.  Defintely one I could direct!

DR SILBERMAN:  (when asking Sarah to "remember" Judgement Day) I'm sure it feels very real to you
SARAH:  On August 29th 1997 its going to feel pretty fucking real to you too.  Anybody not wearing 2 million sunblock is gonna have a real bad day, get it?  God you think you're safe and alive?? You're already dead.  Him, you, you're dead already.  This whole place everything you see is gone.  You're the one living in a fucking dream Silberman cause I know it happens! It happens!

Ps.  have you seen John Connor lately??  What a shame

Song: Pearl Jam - Footsteps.  Easy one. The best song of all time -simple and understated, but so powerful.  I love it.

Maybe Laura and Michelle would like to have a go? 

Friday 19 November 2010

British Stuffs Review: Pasties

If you are like me when first coming to England, you may be thinking "pasties?! why is she reviewing nipple coverings?".   Don't worry - I'm not.

In this instance, pasties is the plural of pasty, pronounced past-ey rather than paste-ey.   (However, if this clarification has disapointed you and you are in the market for some nipple pasties, take a gander here.) But on to the real pasty (past-ey)... The best way I can describe a pasty to someone who has not yet had one  is that they are very similar to a calzone in that it is a semi-circle shaped pastry with filling inside.  You know, like a pizza thats been folded up on it's self.

Traditional Cornish Pasty
 We'll talk fillings in a moment, but first, some history:  According to Wikipedia: "Tradition claims that the pasty was originally made as lunch ('croust' or 'crib' in the Cornish language) for Cornish tin miners who were unable to return to the surface to eat. The story goes that, covered in dirt from head to foot (including some arsenic often found with tin), they could hold the pasty by the folded crust and eat the rest without touching it, discarding the dirty pastry. The pastry they threw away was supposed to appease the knockers, capricious spirits in the mines who might otherwise lead miners into danger. Pasties were also popular with farmers and labourers, particularly in the North East of England, also a mining region."  Thank you, Wikipedia.

As we discussed previously with Stilton cheese, certain foods which have strong roots in a certain geographical area can be granted what is called  Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status.  In 2002, the Cornish Pasty Association applied for such status for the Cornish Pasty and are still waiting for a response from the European Commission.  If PGI status is granted, it would mean only pasty manufacturers who are based in Cornwall and who follow the traditional method and recipie would legally be able to call their products Cornish pasties.

Outside Cornwall, you can get a pasty filled with just about anything, but the ingredients are usually hearty choices such as meats and potatoes (although many versions of vegetarian pasties are readily available as well).  Don't tell the purists at the Cornish Pasty Association, but I even spotted a Christmas Dinner pasty at Waitrose this week!

As you can probably guess, the best way to eat a pasty is on the go.  In the car, on the train, on the Tube, while walking... the perfect pastry casing saves your shirt or lap from a yummy filling mess.

Want a fancy pasty?  I suppose you could put in our your finest china and eat with knife and fork, but that kind of defeats the purpose, doesn't it?

British Stuffs Rating: 4/5 Paddington Bears

Christmas Sushi?
  ... and in kinda-related-but-not-interesting-enough-for-its-own-post news:  YO! Sushi has unveiled their Christmas dishes, including a full YO! Sushi style Christmas dinner Turkey Katsu, sage & onion stuffing sushi roll; a twist on Devils on Horseback featuring dates wrapped in streaky bacon (pictured) alongside a red current jelly dip and a tasty Mince Pie Mochi: a delicious rice cake filled with festive mince pie and white chocolate ganache.  I've not tried any of these merriments, but feel safe to classify this as EW! Sushi.  No thanks.

Important Announcement

In an effort to provide a bit of respite from the inundation of the irritating minutia surrounding the Royal Wedding, I am officially declaring this blog to be a William and Kate-Free Zone!  The inescapable media coverage will only get worse as we get closer to the wedding and will continue long after.  I dread the day Waity Katie is spotted at a dress store, and shudder at the thought of all the wannabes who will undoubtedly model their own weddings after someone they have never and will never meet.  A Royal Wedding, while romantic to those who still daydream of becoming a Princess, is entirely inconsequential to the real lives of the majority of the people of this country and I, for one, refuse to be sucked in.

Congratulations to the happy couple, but may I suggest elopement?

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Five things That Annoy Me About British People*

*This one requires a disclaimer.  I am going against my own advance and will be making sweeping generalizations in this post.  Please do not bother to comment about how the British person(s) you know does not do A, B, C or D.

1. British Newsreaders Pronounce Barack (as in Obama) Bear-ick.  What is this about!?  Its a man's name, you cannot decide on your own pronunciation for it or blame it on dialect or accent.  There is only one correct pronunciation and it is Bah-rock.  C'mon BBC - get it right.

2. "Cutesy" nicknames and shortening of words.  I think its mostly British women who are guilty of this one as luckily, I have never heard my husband or any of his male friends do it, but I seem to hear women say do this all the time.  Examples include:  "piccy" (picture or photo), "footie" (football), "pressie" (present) and "brekkie" (breakfast).  And these are grown people saying these words to other grown people.  

3. The relationship with the average British person and sunshine.  Refer to my post on 4 October for a full discussion on this topic.

4. I hate (and yes, I know its a strong word) when British people return from vacation/holiday in Florida or California (since those seem to be vacation destinations of choice) and think they are an expert on American culture.  They come back spouting nonsense about things that Americans do and what its like in America not realizing there is an entire country in the middle of the two coasts that are NOTHING like the vacation superspots they may have visited.  Sorry, folks, but you have not seen America if you have just spent a week in Disneyworld. 

5. The British obsession with tea.  I'm not annoyed that most British people like tea, I'm annoyed that the British people I work with (and I am sure they aren't the only ones) drink tea all day long. I dont like the smell of tea, I don't like the arguments over who boiled the kettle last, I dont like the way that using the last of the water in the kettle without filling it up again is a crime punishable by death and I dont like the "milk police" who demand explanations from their office mates if they dare to use the skim milk and unbalance the carefully calculated milkman order.
Tea creates hostility, although you can you see from the photo on the right, some people disagree...

Monday 1 November 2010

Ideal Christmas Gift for the New UK Driver

When I was learning to drive on the "wrong" side of the road and the "wrong" side of the car, I developed a hate-hate (trust me, there was no love there) relationship with roundabouts.   Approaching a roundabout made me tense up and forget to breathe, watching other driver's consistantly misuse (or not use at all) of turn signals/indicators on roundabouts made me furious, and listening to my husband tell me how much better a roundabout is compared to a four-way stop in America almost made me a commit acts of domestic violence.  It took me far longer than it should to be able to manouver around a roundabout without coming to a complete stop before entering it and I still prefer a friendly four-way stop, but our relationship has improved with time and hopefully will continue to grow stronger with time.

I know I am not the only one who has roundabout anxiety, so if you have anyone in your life who is struggling to understand and appreciate the great British roundabout, perhaps they would enjoy the Best of British Roundabouts 2011 calendar, the latest offering from the UK Roundabout Appreciation Society  (honestly... I cant make this stuff up.)

While we're on the subject of roundabouts - how happy are you that you don't live in Swindon?   What's wrong with Swindon, you ask?  THIS is what's wrong with Swindon.  (Warning: images contained in the aforementioned link may not be appropriate for roundabout-fearing new drivers)