Friday thought #34 How very British…!

The longer I’m away from the UK, the more I feel an affinity to it every time I’m back there. No matter how long you spend away from your home country, I don’t think you ever lose where you came from, and perhaps it is just a British thing, but there is something so very quaint and charming about the British people, and being one of them, I feel I am allowed to draw attention to the quirky nature of the Brits. Recently mentioned on the radio was a Twitter account called So Very British, which, upon hearing some of the anecdotes, I just had to look up for myself. It’s so simple and honest that I genuinely laughed out loud reading these as they are so true of the British public. I’ve listed some of my favourites below, but feel free to go and check it out for yourself, there are hundreds. If you are a Brit you will know exactly what they mean and will also laugh out loud as you imagine yourself and everyone you know doing the same thing. If not, the following comments will most likely sound very bizarre and make no sense at all, but rest assured that this is a pretty accurate representation of the British people, and long may these quirky traditions last!

Brilliant! So fantastically polite!

– Becoming so cross with someone that you beg for their pardon

– Entering into mild panic if unable to pick the correct amount of change from your hand within three seconds

– “Anyway, I’ll let you get on…” – Translation: Please go away

– Really going for it with your “I’m enjoying my look around” act after entering the wrong shop

– Gearing up to order with your menu closed, then opening and pointing at the very last second

– Being unable to concentrate as someone gives you directions because you’re so focused on looking like you’re paying attention

“Well anyway, just an idea…” – Translation: I can see you all think my idea is terrible, I’ll be quiet now

– Unknown number rings phone – Brit sits perfectly still in terrified silence until it goes away

– Attracting a waiter’s attention by apologising to them

– Hovering your finger a millimetre from the train door button, so everyone knows you have the situation under control

– Worrying you’re going to be arrested as you present your perfectly valid train ticket to the inspector

– Being unable to place your items on a shop counter without saying “just these, please”

– Whispering “come on” at cash points and ticket machines, to assure the queue you’ve done all that you can

– Being unable to leave the office without first staring at everything on your desk and saying “right”

– “After you” “No, after you” “Honestly…” “Go on…” “Please…” – Brits go for the door at the same time, chuckle, then begin again

– Holding your hand to your chest while hiccuping, to assure everyone that you know it’s annoying and you’ll be stopping ASAP

Friday thought #16 Giving blood – UK vs France

I’m not sure what giving blood involves in other countries; I can only compare the differences I’ve experienced between giving blood in the UK and in France. I’m sure most people are aware of what giving blood involves; in a nutshell: filling in a form confirming that you are not currently unwell, a pin prick blood test from your finger and a chat with a nice volunteer doctor, finishing up with lying on a gurney whilst blood gently flows out of your arm and in to a plastic bag! It’s a wonderful organisation, run by incredibly hard working doctors and nurses who travel around the country collecting blood to be given to patients in desperate need of a blood transfusion.

I’ve been giving blood for many years and would encourage others to support this as often as possible, but this is not a post telling people to give blood, it’s far less high-brow and virtuous. I simply feel the need to let the world know just how wonderful the after-blood-giving food is when donating in France… This is truly something the French do well and should be applauded for.

To put this in to perspective, after having lost a pint of blood you may understandably be feeling slightly weak, perhaps a little dizzy, and are advised to sit down and have something to eat and drink to ensure you are fully well before leaving the venue. In the UK you are directed to a small seating area and offered a packet of biscuits and a cup of sugary tea. Everyone sits around politely whilst they munch their sugary snacks, then quietly sidles out the door.

In France, this is a different story. When the needle has been successfully removed from your arm, you are pointed in the direction of what can only be described as a banqueting table. You are seated at an individual place with cutlery, a wine glass, a water glass and a napkin, very like a slightly makeshift restaurant! Then a helpful volunteer will appear as if from nowhere to place a plate in front of you, laden with treats. At my most recent donation the table contained the following:

White, red or rosé wine

A variety of juices

A selection of cheeses, cold meats, patés, olives, a basket of fresh bread, and a platter of sliced apples and tomatoes.

Main course over, dessert consisted of a smorgasbord of home baked cakes and tarts, from which you could choose. The first time I came across this I was stunned and asked the gentleman next to me if this was normal. “Bien sur” was the reply as he looked at me in surprise and quizzically asked what happened in my country. This was not a sugary snack to check you were ok, this was dinner.

Thank you France, you certainly know how to reward your blood donors! What better incentive to do something good than a delicious big feed at the end?! How does it work in other countries? I’d love to know!

Cup of tea and a digestive? Can't complain...
Cup of tea and a digestive? Can’t complain can we?…
Quite the evening meal! Totally worth the blood loss!
Quite the evening meal! Totally worth the blood loss!

Friday thought #7 What do you miss from ‘home’

No matter how many years you spend living abroad, whether it’s simply just over the border or a 24 hour plane ride away, we all miss certain things about the place where we grew up, aside from the obvious family and friends. Of course you get used to where you live, the ways of life, the local customs and foods, and learn to really enjoy things you had perhaps never experienced before.

Spending so many years in France, some of these things for me have been delicious tartiflette, an abundance of local mountain cheeses, fresh baguettes, wonderful bakeries and a rare rump steak to name but a few! Before coming to France I’m not sure I’d ever eaten a steak before, and the thought of eating meat that looked a little pink would have horrified me, but now I’ll literally close my eyes to savour every bite of that bloody steak that’s almost still mooing!

You would think after spending your entire twenties away from the country you grew up in, you would just become accustomed to what’s available where you live and slowly forget what you used to do. But for me this has never been the case. Maybe it’s a British thing, but despite actively choosing not to live there, we Brits seem to cling on to all things British with a fierce patriotism, excitedly cramming suitcases and cars full of things we can ‘only buy over there’!

I don’t think it’s a case of the UK having ‘better stuff’ than France, I think it is simply that you never lose your roots. I know the high street shops of Britain like the back of my hand, whatever I need I know where to go to get it. It’s simply easier to wait until you next visit England to buy yourself some new jeans or a pair of winter boots, because rather than spending hours trawling a bunch of shops you’re not familiar with, you could have what you want in 10 minutes from your local childhood high street because you grew up with it and you know it.

I have the wonderful luxury of living somewhere I love, yet being only a short plane ride away from where I grew up so in just a few hours I can be across 2 borders and safely landed in the UK. I frequently take advantage of this wonderfully convenient service and I spent last weekend catching up with some fabulous university friends. Now during a fleeting visit across the water it would be frankly wasteful to not cram a few British treats in to my hand luggage whilst there, which I duly did, and which got me thinking about the strange things I miss from my homeland.

This time the lucky items that made it back were: crumpets, Dairy Milk caramel, Double Decker chocolate bars, multipacks of fudge bars, a block of cheddar cheese and the Saturday Times newspaper. On a journey which allows for more luggage space the following items will also regularly be found: Marmite, British bacon, digestive biscuits and the essential jars of peanut butter.

Ever since childhood I’ve always been a huge fan of peanut butter (something which the french sadly just don’t seem interested in…) Why I miss the other random assortment is anyone’s guess, although the fact that you simply can’t buy most of these things over here surely must play a part…! As they say, absence does make the heart grow fonder! One thing’s for sure, if I ever move further away I’m going to have to send a mighty big container on ahead of me, and it’ll be filled with peanut butter!

Crumpets - the strange things we miss...!!
Crumpets – the strange things we miss…!!