"Comedy always works best when it is mean-spirited" - John Cleese

Author John Corby also writes as "Bulldogge" for the British Canadian newspaper.

A Farthingsworth of Tall Tales from Blighty's Fameless Blog
Newsflash from New York (no, not that one!) |  Are the British better drivers? |  The Story of the Telephone Kiosk |  Drinking Nelson's Blood |  Screaming Jelly Babies |  Flying to the UK is very dangerous! |  Brits to drive on the right |  Who hung the monkey? |  Upper class virgins |  Double, double trouble |  What a Lovely Morning for a War

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The United Queendom?

I often sit in the store, munching on my Walkers Cheese & Onion crisps, or gnawing on a bar of delicious imported, British-made Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate ("chocolate flavoured candy" to the loonies at the Canadian Fool Inspection Agency) while musing philosophically about various matters.

Some time ago, as I popped another mouth-watering Marks & Spencer Custard Cream biscuit (buy one get one free while stocks last at Blighty's) in my mouth, I wondered why the United Kingdom is not called the "United Queendom". After all, our head of state has been a queen, not a king, for the last 55 years.

We British have always been driven by tradition. We don't take lightly to change. And so it is with the name of our native country. The United Kingdom was so named in the year 1707 when the throne of Scotland was merged with the throne of England.

The thrones of England and Scotland had actually been held by a single monarch since 1603 when James I (James VI of Scotland) ascended the English throne following the death of Elizabeth I. Nonetheless, the two kingdoms were separate until the Act of Union in 1707.

So, there you have it. Kings and Queens don't usually last longer than about 60 years, but the "United Kingdom" has been in existence for over 300 years.

My little barb directed at the Canada Food Inspection Agency was based on the fact that Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate AND Canada were both invented in England. The chocolate came first! Nonetheless, the CFIA does not allow British made chocolate to be called "chocolate" in Canada!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Driving in Britain

A Canadian friend of mine, who should have known better, incurred the wrath of a British lorry driver during our recent trip to the UK. It seems that Canadians driving in Britain have to learn to adapt to a lot more than just driving on the wrong side of the road.

My erring friend (we'll call her "Bonnie" - not her real name) was in the lead vehicle of the convoy of rented cars in which our group was travelling. She was navigating our route with the aid of a "sat nav". In Britain, GPS devices are usually called "sat nav" (satellite navigation).

As we reached each roundabout on our route she would extend her arm from the car window and indicate which exit we should take by holding up the appropriate number of fingers. You can probably guess where this story is leading.

Somewhere, on a major route in the heart of England the voice on the sat nav called for the second exit at the next roundabout. Bonnie dutifully wound down the window, stretched out her arm and signalled the second exit with her fingers.

A lorry had managed to get in the middle of the convoy, directly behind Bonnie's car. Upon seeing Bonnie's signal, the lorry driver moved his vehicle to within inches of Bonnie's rear bumper, leaned on his horn to attract her attention and returned her "2nd exit" signal with great vigour.

An explanation for non-Brits:
- A "lorry" is a British transport truck also known as an "HGV" (Heavy Goods Vehicle). Lorry drivers are not reknowned for their patience, courtesy and consideration for other road users.
- Gestures involving the display of extended fingers are always dangerous. In Britain gesturing with the forefinger and second finger is considered particularly offensive.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Security Alert!

Another ripping yarn from John's adventures in the Land of Hope and Glory this summer. Actually this episode of the story happened before I had even left Canada. A few blog posts ago I told the story of the Cadbury Chocolate Spread (a good buy at Blighty's for only $6.99 for a stonking big pot) that had been confiscated from a Blighty's customer by UK security officials. So, you would think that the subject would be at the front of my mind as I began my own travels. Apparently not.

As my carry-on bag passed through the X-ray machine at Pearson Airport in Toronto prior to departure I observed one of the eagle-eyed officials gesture towards it. "Oh my gawd" I thought, "what have I been and gone and done wrong now?" (I often entertain private thoughts in my native Cockney, even though I rarely speak that way anymore).

My carry-on passed along the conveyor to a second official who inquired "is this your bag sir?". "Yes, that's mine" I replied. "Do you mind if I take a look inside?" he continued. He then proceeded to rifle through my collection of toiletries, emergency underwear, compact thermonuclear detonators and portable electronics, then laid his hand on a large bottle of maple syrup intended as a loving gift for my aging, infirm mother in Blighty. I had thoughtlessly thrown it into my carry-on bag in the vain expectation that its passage to the UK would be safer than in my checked baggage.

The official was most apologetic but, nonetheless, my dear old mum's maple syrup was destined for the incinerator.

She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed cudgelled me in the earhole for my error, then cudgelled me again for good measure. Then we noticed a souvenir store only steps away from the point of my misadventure. We entered the store to purchase a replacement gift for my dear old mum, and - bloomin' 'eck - what did we see? Right there on the shelf - a bottle of maple syrup that was identical to the one that had just been confiscated from me!

There are two conclusions to draw from this tale:
1. For security reasons you may not take any liquid or gel greater than 100ml on board an aircraft - UNLESS you purchased it from the duty-free shop inside the airport.
2. If you want to interfere with the operation of an aircraft, tamper with bottles of maple syrup sold from duty free shops inside Toronto airport. Oh, and Al Qaeda owes my old mum a big bottle of the stuff!

Do you feel safer knowing that the Canadian government is taking such good care of us during our travels?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Keep Left - and Squeeze

Have you travelled from Canada to the UK recently? I just returned from a 3-week trip to the UK myself. It's my duty, as proprietor of Orangeville's British consular office to check that all is well in the Queen's homeland from time to time.

And yes, thanks for asking, the weather was terrible. A typical July in Britain - bloomin' cold and wet!

She Who Must Be Obeyed and I rented a car to travel around Britain. A nice Vauxhall Vectra - comfy but way too big for Britain's narrow, winding byways. We drove over 2000 miles and remembered to stay on the wrong side of the road for most of the trip.

But, why did Britons originally decide to drive on the left hand side of the road? That's an interesting question with an intriguing answer. Britain, as we all know, is an ancient land that has attracted many foreign visitors. Over the centuries Britain has been visited by thousands of vacationing Viking, Norman and Roman armies. Owing to the bad behaviour of these foreign chaps they were intercepted by British knights carrying broadswords. Traditionally, swordsmen wielded their weapons with their right arms. Therefore, in order to engage their opponents they would need to pass to their left.

I could also tell you that British roads were built so narrow because they only needed to be wide enough for two horsemen to pass each other. That would be just too implausible if, like us, you had negotiated the tiny B-road we found while travelling just outside Bristol. It wasn't wide enough for two horses to pass each other and yet, somehow, we got that Vauxhall Vectra to squeeze between the roadside hedges.

Actually Britain's roads were pioneered by the Romans who built them just wide enough for an invading war chariot. So, the next time you drive over 'ome, thank the Italians for the state of Britain's roads!

I'll be posting more news from our UK trip over the next few days - including why I made the wrong choice of airline for my flight from Toronto to the UK.