Saturday, January 25, 2014

Britain From A to Z: P


While on our tour of Britain, we met a lot of people. Of course, the ones we got to be with the most were the other tourists on the bus, our tour guide, Tom, and our two bus drivers, Mark and Richard. While these latter three were all from Britain, most of the tourists traveling with us on the bus were not. Actually, there was one couple from Australia and the rest were from the United States. Places like New York, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Alabama (that’s us) and so on. For the last half of the trip, we were joined by a large group from Minnesota, many of whom had Welsh roots. There were many married couples, including one gay couple on their honeymoon. There was a grandmother-mother-daughter trio. Also, a married lady traveling alone. All nice folks. Oh, and a husband, wife, and son were on the tour bus also. That would be us!

People On Our Tour at a Scottish Banquet

Some Happy-Go-Luckies Leaving a Pub in Glasgow 

Police Officer in Glasgow

All of the native Brits we met were also nice. Of course, most of them were serving us in one way or another—on the tour bus, at hotels, at restaurants, at shops, etc.—so I’m not sure how much that can be used as a measure of the entire population. Lots of mean people can be nice if they are looking for repeat business in the future. However, there were the occasional encounters with native persons not looking for our business. They too were nice.

 Conversation on the Streets of London

Server and Entertainer at Welsh Banquet

It’s interesting how people of different cultures can be quite similar. Here in the US, we have rabid sports fans. Well, they have that in Britain too. The sports I hear about the most there are football and rugby. For the more gentile, there is bowls, which we saw being played on a field in Glasgow, Scotland. Of course, there is more foot-ball contact in British football than in American football. So, for obvious reasons, we call the game soccer. For some strange reason, our son (a professed Anglophile, primarily a Walesophile) prefers to call soccer “football” and football “handegg”. Go figure!

Playing Bowls in Glasgow

Well, football rivalries exist in Britain just as they do for handegg here in the US. One big one is Manchester United and Liverpool. So, you can imagine the fear I felt when my son announced that he was going to wear his Manchester United jersey as we walked the streets of Liverpool. I wondered if we’d make it back to our hotel alive. Not wanting to show my fear, I boldly walked onto the streets of Liverpool, my wife and son at my side, with great trepidation. Of course, I went prepared; my feet constantly at the ready to retreat should an attack take place. But I have heard that 58-year-old feet don’t move that fast, so I’m not sure how my defense tactics would have worked. Fortunately, I didn’t have to find out. Most people simply ignored my son’s jersey. The only incident was when a young man yelled something unintelligible from a car as it passed by us at a crosswalk. They didn’t turn around to chase us down, so all was fine.

One thing that seems to be quite different about the British is their humor. I just can’t quite put my finger on it. Much of their humor I do not like. But as with American humor, it varies. Some British humor I find very humorous. When I was a teenager, I discovered Monty Python. Their humor I liked. They had a BBC show, “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”, which aired on our local PBS affiliate in Louisville, KY. My friends and I laughed a lot watching that show. In addition, much to the delight of my hormone-infused teenage self, they occasionally had a topless woman on the show. Breasts on American TV were expressly forbidden unless they belonged to a man. Somehow, PBS must have been granted a special waiver. That was fine by me. When Monty Python began appearing at the movie theaters, my friends and I had to go. Our humor bones were tickled with such titles as “And Now for Something Completely Different”, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, and “Monty Python’s Life of Brian”.

Another British comedian that I came to like was Marty Feldman. While most people probably know Feldman from his role as Igor (pronounced EYE-gor) in the movie “Young Frankenstein”, I first encountered him in his BBC show “Marty”. One of the things Marty excelled at was slapstick. I can still recall a skit he had on his show where he played a repairman trying to stop a leak on a fountain. Every time he stopped one leak, two more would form. It’s one of those comedy bits you have to see to appreciate. I can still recall my mom and me busting a gut watching that routine.

Another area of difference in entertainment between America and Britain is science fiction. I don’t remember any British scifi TV or movies that I enjoyed. But I’ve not seen a lot. And you have to know that I was a HUGE scifi fan growing up. I read many books by Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, and Arthur C. Clarke. Okay, I’ll give you that last one. But when it comes to British scifi, the acid test has to be “Dr. Who”, which has been on TV for many years. I just don’t like this show. But I did enjoy watching the British-made “Fahrenheit 451”. However, the book was written by an American, Ray Bradbury. So, there you go!

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