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» Why I Love/Hate Britain

Confessions of a Pathetic Anglophile.
Here's the thing, I was born in South Africa. My ancestors are from all over north-western Europe, with a slight numerical bias towards the Scots, and then the English. I have never been to Britain, as we were not wealthy and it was hideously expensive due to the exchange rate. I was raised on books like the Beano, Giles annuals, Battle/Action Comics and Enid Blyton. I went to a very prestigious (state) school where we wore blazers and boaters, had a rowing team, all that jazz.

Because of the historical English/Afrikaans divide in South Africa (amongst white people) there was a degree of snobbery about accents on the English side, and my school actually encouraged enunciation tending toward received pronunciation. With fairly English-sounding parents, I was somehow one of the only students in whom it took root, to the point that people in my own country thought I was foreign.

Now I live in Australia (I emigrated blindly, don't regret it) and people here just assume I'm British. Including local Brits. Considering my birthplace's historical baggage and my countrymen's aggressive reputation, I don't really mind the confusion ameliorating first impressions.

Throughout all of this, I've never felt I belonged in either country. Too English during Apartheid, too white and "Eurocentic" afterwards, and a foreigner in Australia. The Afrikaners have a term for people like me: "Soutpiel", meaning salty-cock from having one foot in Africa, one foot in Britain and one's penis therefore dangling in the sea.

The people I seem to have the most in common with online tend to be British. There's a certain humour we share and I have little in common with the Americans, what with their lack of ZX Spectrums, boring profanity, horrid spelling and dialect and bewilderment at meat pies and Marmite. I love QI and other such congenially tweedy bollocks.

I'm well aware that England and Scotland are in reality urban, grey, full of Jeremy Kyle's audience, and that someone with my accent would probably be thought a bit of a wanker. In my mind it's all misty, winding avenues and hedgerows, otters and hedgehogs, Spitfires, ancient manors and cosy cottages, Big Ben clanging out midnight, welling up during "Jerusalem" and all that stuff that presumably makes me an annoying prat to the locals.

I know that John Major got pilloried for his speech celebrating the kind of England I get wistful imagining. I like James May, and even he hates this kind of "heritage England" mythmaking. I'm not remotely what would be a Tory, before anyone wonders.

In my own little fantasy existence, I live in a small, genteel English village, and the locals all nod stiffly as I make my way through the evening chill to the ancient local pub for a quiet beer.

I'll probably never even visit because I'm kind of poor and seldom have any paid leave, but I thought you'd all be amused at the pathetic reasons I love Britain. Feel free to have a laugh and point fingers.
(Sat 5th Oct 2013, 10:18, More)

» Evil Pranks

The Great Booze-on-Desk Caper.
We have office drink-ups on Fridays. One of the more neurotic, uptight girls in the office left a note on her desk telling us not to leave any bottles on her desk.

Well, we had a lot of empties lying around.



She cried when she arrived on Monday. I got asked (the person was laughing while they asked) to apologise.
(Fri 14th Dec 2007, 14:03, More)

» Lies that got out of control

Not really "out of control", but I'm sort of proud of it.
I was visiting my ladyfriend in Brisbane. I observed pedantically that a footbridge's "2T MAX LIMIT" warning sign wasn't much good unless you constantly did a mental tally of the number of people on the bridge. She said "that's why there's a little warning light over there."

"Ah, good thinking."

"Nah, not really. Gotcha."

Game on, woman.

Some time later, we were on the train, when I noticed the upcoming station was Toowong. "Ah! I was reading about Toowong recently."

"Oh yes?"

"Yes, there's a pretty radical pilot project in traffic management there."

"Oh?"

"Yes, to smooth traffic flow and prevent queues, you can only take left turns."

"Gosh, really?"

"Yes, in Toowong don't make a right."

"Damn you!"
(Mon 16th Aug 2010, 1:43, More)

» I don't understand the attraction

Hair-Shirt Hamburgers
I'm posting this from my blog, since it fits the question. People go nuts about some expensive hamburger joint, but I find most of them inedible.
____________________________

It's interesting how the laws of form and function do not apply to gourmet food. Gourmet hamburgers, in their attempt to appear to be a kind of handheld cornucopia, are almost impossible to eat with your hands. So much produce spills out of them while you eat that you need a knife and fork to clear your plate. The worst part, however, is the near insistence on the use of hard, crusty rolls.

Crusty rolls are the product of a mentality that regards food as better the more physically punishing it is to consume. Hearty chunks of fibre stuck inextricably in your teeth, gums abraded near to bleeding by the carborundum crust, flour all over your face and clothes, and filling squeezed out the back due to the rigidity of the fucking thing. Texture is fine and dandy, but sandwich something soft between two crackers and see if it stays there when you bite into the little bellows you've just created. And it's nearly impossible to tear puffy wholewheat rolls apart without a grimacing, messy gymnastics routine.

Also, whoever gave trendy eateries the suggestion that it was a good idea to replace lettuce with rocket deserves a herbal enema administered with a fucking firehose, although I suspect they'd enjoy that. When the garmish overpowers the flavour of the patty and sauce, your hamburger has failed.
(Fri 16th Oct 2009, 7:03, More)

» Conspicuous Consumption

Haiee-Faiee.
I am a man of very little ambition and even less achievement. I am also an inveterate miser, and so my pitiful earnings tend to form a nice pile of savings in short order. Mostly this has been heading towards a deposit for a place of my own, but I have made an indulgence.

I am fairly passionate about music, and I have always appreciated great sound reproduction and have fussy ears that are irked by crappy equipment. I know my stuff, and I've counselled wealthier friends to audio nirvana, and then sat listening to their amazing systems in a slightly confused state of happiness and raw envy.

Having lived in South Africa for most of my life and having pitiful African currency mocking my dreams of hearing my carefully assembled CD collection in all its glory, I moved to Australia and every day on the way back to my room in a sharehouse, I'd pass the local high-end audio shop. Torture.

This year, after about 20 years of unconsummated lust and saving, I sprung for it.

I got myself a Squeezebox Touch, a NAD T747 receiver and Hsu Research Ultra speakers and subwoofer setup, with all centre channel speakers at the front. I ordered the speakers from the manufacturer in America, who consulted with me about my selection and rotated the speaker horns to suit my setup. No PayPal or anything like that, so I went to the bank one Saturday afternoon and organised a transfer.

The day the speakers arrived, my landlord (who signed the papers) texted me to ask if I was mad. There was an absolute mountain of boxes in my hallway, including 40kgs of subwoofer in a box the size of a small fridge. Unpacking them before my girlfriend got home was a kind of kid-at-Christmas moment. Just figuring out how to get something as heavy as a 15" sub out of the box was a challenge (luckily there were instructions). I'd clipped and terminated wiring in advance, so plugging in was a formality.

Am I happy with it? Oh, fuck me, yes. There's a special thrill in owning equipment that you can't even remotely strain without doing your ears in. And this stuff isn't just loud, it's detailed, revealing so much that I'm hearing new things in tracks I've heard hundreds of times on decent headphones and movies on Blu-ray sound much, much better than the cinema. When I sit in the sweetspot, my favourite artists are right in the room with me. And games? So, so good.

Don't settle for iPods.
(Sat 30th Jul 2011, 3:55, More)
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