"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

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Royal Navy Legend

In October 1805 Royal Navy sailors drank the blood of the dead hero Horatio Lord Nelson - or so the legend goes.

Shocked? Well, there is a little more to the story and no disrespect is intended to members of the Senior Service.

As we all know, Nelson was a brilliant Admiral and by virtue of his outstanding abilities and superior tactics, he overcame a superior enemy force of Spanish and French ships at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Standing on the deck of his flagship HMS Victory, savouring the certainty of victory in the battle, Nelson was struck down by an enemy sniper and died of his wounds.

It was a long way back from Cape Trafalgar to the nearest port in England and burial at sea was not an option for a national hero. Instead, his crew placed his body inside a barrel of rum to preserve it during the long voyage home.

When HMS Victory made dock in England, Nelson's pickled body was removed and received a state funeral. Only then was it discovered that the sailors had bored a hole in the bottom of the barrel and slowly drained the rum along with a drop or two of Nelson's blood.

To this day, Royal Navy sailors know rum as "Nelson's Blood".

Monday, September 29, 2008

Give Your Boss a Goose Today

Happy Michaelmas Day. Today is the 29th day of September. I hope you remembered to buy a nice fat goose over the weekend. Michaelmas Day (the correct way to pronounce it sounds like "Mickelmas") is traditionally the day on which a landowner's tenants would present him with a goose - and pay their rent.

Legend has it that if you eat goose on Michaelmas Day you will never lack money all year. I suppose if your tenants all line up to pay their rents and each one presents you with a goose then you will definitely be sitting pretty.

Michaelmas Day is named after the Archangel Michael, one of whose tasks is to protect us from the evils of darkness. Since Michaelmas Day comes just a week after the Autumn Equinox, the shorter nights are becoming more noticeable now and Michael is probably tightening his bootstraps for another long season of hard work.

Today is one of the four "Quarter Days" in the old British calendar year on which contracts would begin and end and on which servants would be hired. The others are Lady Day (March 25th), Midsummer Day (June 24th) and Christmas Day (December 25th).

Although now less important there are still some notable key events occuring on Quarter Days. Perhaps the most significant is the start of the British tax year on April 6th. April 6th is a Quarter Day under the old Julian calendar and is often referred to as "Old Lady Day". I am sure that some confused senior citizens would be less than flattered to be associated with the collection of taxes.

Perhaps the Canada Revenue Service would look kindly upon you if you drive down to your local tax office and present them with a goose along with your tax return next April. Just tell them it's an old British Quarter Day tradition, but better omit to tell them the bit about never lacking money all year - plead poverty.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

2000 Pints of Lager (and a Packet of Crisps?)

2000 pints of lager were delivered to Windsor Castle this week. The draymen must have wondered what the Royal Family were planning; a wild Windsor party perhaps? Surely a nice cup of tea would have been a more appropriate beverage for the royals, but no, the address on the delivery note definitely said "the Windsor Castle".

Castle staff raised the portcullis and lowered the drawbridge over the moat while halberd bearing royal staff read the delivery note. Shaking their heads they turned the lorry around and refused the delivery. It transpired that the lager was intended for a pub in the nearby town of Maidenhead. The pub, called "the Windsor Castle", was planning to host a large number of lager louts during the International soccer game between England and Crotia.

By the way, England won the soccer game by a score of 4-1. That result was also thought to be a mistake by many people.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Golliwogs - An American Tradition?

I was always a little suspicious of gollies when I was a child. They just didn't look British, but those big eyes, great big smile and wide open arms made them look trustworthy enough.

My childhood suspicions proved to be justified. Beloved by children in the UK for over a hundred years they may be, but true Brits they are not. The golliwog was nurtured in Britain but it actually has an American heritage.

The British golliwog doll was originally based on a a character in a book written by an American woman who emigrated to Britain while still a child.

The famous Robertson's Gollies seen on jam jars in the UK weren't even a truly British icon. One of the company's principals saw children playing with golliwog dolls in the United States and transferred the idea to his company's products (with huge success) in the UK. Enamel "Golly" badges could be earned by collecting labels from Robertson's jam jars. The company finally dropped Robertson's Golly badges in 2001 following much controversy stimulated by the political correctness movement.

Golliwogs are difficult to find in Britain now due to the prevailing politically correct atmosphere there. Fortunately, they are still made for export and can be found at Blighty's where we don't attach any deep significance to the imagery associated with them beyond knowing that children love them.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Screaming Jelly Babies

When I was a nipper the custom among youngsters was to bite the heads off Jelly Babies before eating the rest of their bodies. Bizarre yes, but tame compared to some of the other antics we got up to in those days.

In more modern days even greater indignities are perpetrated on these poor innocents. I witnessed one such example while visiting the United Queendom this summer. It is called "Screaming Jelly Babies". The demonstration is often performed by school science teachers to stimulate interest in science among students. It involves melting a certain chemical in a test tube (I won't disclose the chemical involved to prevent accusations of participation in the cruelty). A Jelly Baby is then mercilessly dropped into the test tube. The Jelly Baby immediately bursts into colourful flames and makes a screaming sound as it is consumed by the fire.

But what are Jelly Babies and where do they come from? Their history goes back to the end of the First World War when they were first marketed as "Peace Babies". After the Second World War the idea of peace seemed abstract and the product was re-launched as Jelly Babies.

Prior to 1989 all Jelly Babies were the same shape; the only variation being their individual colours. Around 1989 Jelly Babies were given different shapes and their own names. We now have "Brilliant Strawberry", "Lemon Bubbles", "Boofuls Lime", "Big Heart Blackcurrant", "Bumper Orange" and "Baby Bonny Raspberry".

Now when somebody performs an indignity on a Jelly Baby the victim has an identity!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Don't Say You're English

There is a poem making its way around the Internet recently lamenting the erosion of English identity. "English" is no longer accepted as a nationality by the British government. One must now be "British". The following verse was brought into the store and presented to me by a senior gentleman of English heritage this morning.

Goodbye to my England, so long my old friend
Your days are numbered, being brought to an end
To be Scottish, Irish or Welsh that's fine
But don't say you're English, that's way out of line.

The French and the Germans may call themselves such
As may Norwegians, the Swedes and the Dutch
You can say you are Russian or maybe a Dane
But don't say you're English ever again.

At Broadcasting House the word is taboo
In Brussels it's scrapped, in Parliament too
Even schools are affected, staff do as they're told
They must not teach children about England of old.

Writers like Shakespeare, Milton and Shaw
Do the pupils not learn about them anymore?
How about Agincourt, Hastings, Arnhem or Mons
When England lost hosts of her very brave sons?

We are not Europeans, how can we be?
Europe is miles away over the sea.
We're the English from England, let's all be proud
Stand up and be counted - shout it out loud.

Let's tell our government and Brussels too
We're proud of our heritage and the Red, White and Blue
Fly the flag of St George or the Union Jack
Let the world know - we want our England back!