As you have already seen, briefly, I love to comment on the food in the U.K. Every time I think I’m being too harsh I see or experience something that sends me back to that first helping of Haggis. Like lunch yesterday – Kippers (cold, smoked herring – something like a giant sardine), cold cooked salmon and cold whitebait. Yes, whitebait. My fishing friends tell me not to eat anything we consider bait. There was “salad” to go with this lovely platter of cold fish, but – of course – in England you eat lettuce, tomatoes and radishes plain, nothing to dress the salad.
Nonetheless, there are many things to admire about the Brits. Most anyone who has visited the island remarks how patience the English are waiting in lines or, of course, queues. In fact, at times you think queuing up is actually an outdoor sport in the U.K. – and it might as well be one because you move much more rapidly than the players in your average game of cricket.
And, lets face it, the Brits are so darn polite. Recently one of my classmates recounted a brief story about a trip to London, providing her opinion about the merits of the train as opposed to the bus she took. Wishing she had taken to the train, she explained and I tried to imagine the scene: a ridiculously obese woman sat next to her – taking up half of my friend’s seat – and processed to unwrap an egg salad sandwich spilling part of the contents my classmate. While the egg debris was of little mention to my friend , she did say the aroma throughout the bus was changed as they seemed to pause at every possible, local stop. Mentioning that she was glad when they finally reached her stop, she said she planned to take the train the next time because this had not been a pleasant trip; and, for her, to put an exclamation point on the story she finally said, “and, you know, the woman next to be was quite large.”
Speaking of patient. One of the first things i did was head to City Centre after moving into my dorm. The first time i had to cross the road i reached a cross walk. Three people were waiting to cross, but there was not a car in sight. It was only a two-lane road and I could have crossed it twice without incident in the time it took me to try to figure out what they were waiting for. Finally, an alert sounded and a green shaped person lite up on the cross walk sign – we had been cleared to walk. No wonder they think Americans are so aggressive and impatient (two of my middle names). A few minutes later, I was walking around to get my bearings and I noticed a policemen on a bicycle near me wearing a fluorescent yellow vest. I wondered if i had just avoided a jaywalking ticket for being too confused (as opposed to too patient) to walk before i saw the little green man. Then, a few moments later, I saw another one; and then another. I wondered what was going on around me. Then I saw one of those yellow vests on someone who pretty clearly wasn’t law enforcement. Then it dawned on me, most of these bicyclists (not everyone, so it must not be a statue) were wearing vests – very safe; very proper; very polite.
There is one hazard for Americans dealing with this British politeness. They really do not like confrontation, so when you ask a question they don’t want to answer or ask for them to do something they don’t want to do — they will never telling you. They will leave you in blissful ignorance while all the time knowing that they have no intention of saying or doing, but you will never know. My advice – don’t ask more than once. You got your answer, you just didn’t know it.