Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tweener Guide to Europe Pt. 2: The UK

Now, to the places where I've spent the most time: Starting with the United Kingdom

The 2002-03 school was spent in London and Norwich. It was a damn good time. With that said, I'm not writing a single thing about England. The reason being that although English are great, I hate their guts and everything about their culture. Oh; I can hear you now: "What about The Kinks?!" You fool. Go to any Englishman's place, and you won't find a copy of Village Green Preservation Society. Instead, it is only you: an arrogant, irrelevant, and poor 20-something American white guy, who cares about that album.

A couple of things about England:

1.) Everything is open from only 11 am to 2 pm everyday. As a consequence, you really have to plan things ahead, from drinking to shopping to museum-ing. It is said that places in England only stay open this long because it synchs up perfectly with soccer: An hour to drink beforehand, an hour and 50 minute total match time, and ten minutes to stuff down and after-match beef pie before stomping that Blackburn fan's face in.

2.) English cuisine is actually underrated. Let's defer to George Orwell on this one:

We have heard a good deal of talk in recent years about the desirability of attracting foreign tourists to this country. It is well known that England’s two worst faults, from a foreign visitor’s point of view, are the gloom of our Sundays and the difficulty of buying a drink.
Both of these are due of fanatical minorities who will need a lot of quelling, including extensive legislation. But there is one point on which public opinion could bring about a rapid change for the better: I mean cooking.
It is commonly said, even by the English themselves, that English cooking is the worst in the world. It is supposed to be not merely incompetent, but also imitative, and I even read quite recently, in a book by a French writer, the remark: ‘The best English cooking is, of course, simply French cooking.’
Now that is simply not true, as anyone who has lived long abroad will know, there is a whole host of delicacies which it is quite impossible to obtain outside the English-speaking countries. No doubt the list could be added to, but here are some of the things that I myself have sought for in foreign countries and failed to find.
First of all, kippers, Yorkshire pudding, Devonshire cream, muffins and crumpets. Then a list of puddings that would be interminable if I gave it in full: I will pick out for special mention Christmas pudding, treacle tart and apple dumplings. Then an almost equally long list of cakes: for instance, dark plum cake (such as you used to get at Buzzard’s before the war), short-bread and saffron buns. Also innumerable kinds of biscuit, which exist, of course, elsewhere, but are generally admitted to be better and crisper in England.
Then there are the various ways of cooking potatoes that are peculiar to our own country. Where else do you see potatoes roasted under the joint, which is far and away the best way of cooking them? Or the delicious potato cakes that you get in the north of England? And it is far better to cook new potatoes in the English way — that is, boiled with mint and then served with a little melted butter or margarine — than to fry them as is done in most countries.
Then there are the various sauces peculiar to England. For instance, bread sauce, horse-radish sauce, mint sauce and apple sauce; not to mention redcurrant jelly, which is excellent with mutton as well as with hare, and various kinds of sweet pickle, which we seem to have in greater profusion than most countries.
What else? Outside these islands I have never seen a haggis, except one that came out of a tin, nor Dublin prawns, nor Oxford marmalade, nor several other kinds of jam (marrow jam and bramble jelly, for instance), nor sausages of quite the same kind as ours.
Then there are the English cheeses. There are not many of them but I fancy Stilton is the best cheese of its type in the world, with Wensleydale not far behind. English apples are also outstandingly good, particularly the Cox’s Orange Pippin.
And finally, I would like to put in a word for English bread. All the bread is good, from the enormous Jewish loaves flavoured with caraway seeds to the Russian rye bread which is the colour of black treacle. Still, if there is anything quite as good as the soft part of the crust from an English cottage loaf (how soon shall we be seeing cottage loaves again?) I do not know of it.

Pretty hungry, aren't you? Or did you just close my browser because that was too long?

3.) To the North of England is Scotland, which contains a city called Edinburgh. It is a stunningly amazing place that looks incredible from wherever you are standing at any moment...Whatever. Edinburgh also had a record store called Fopps, which was the best record store that I've ever been to.

Edinburgh - Wake me up when I'm supposed to care about this spellbinding city

4.) Students in England are dirt poor. I mean, really. If you want to out to the pubs with your English friends, you have to get out a calender and pick a date two months ahead so they can start saving their money.


6.) When the english ask you, "you alright?", it generally means "how are you?", not "are you ok?". If you don't like this particular phrasing, simply respond the way I do: "Yeah, I'm alright...YOU ALRIGHT?"

So, that's the UK and England. I can honestly say that other than the countless great times having intelligent, reasoned conversations with my friends about a variety of topics, England was a total nightmare.

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