Welcome to our fourth instalment in our "about Britain" series. For the uninitiated, Britain can appear to be a pretty odd place. We have odd habits, odd food, odd weather, odd taps and an even odder sense of humour. It's nothing that a good bout of cultural training can't sort out, but I'm going to run a series of posts about what makes the Brits so wonderfully weird - or weirdly wonderful - which may help our non-indigenous friends to understand what the heck we are all about.
1. We love the middle lane of the motorway
Our road sense is so bad in Britain that the Government produced a set of guidelines - The Highway Code, which applies to England, Scotland and Wales.
Many of the rules in the Code are legal requirements, and if you disobey these rules you are committing a criminal offence.
The Highway Code states that, "It is important that all road users are aware of the Code and are considerate towards each other." When you have spent long enough in Britain you will soon realise that practically nobody believes in this importance. These days, we take more of an "every man (or woman) for himself (or herself)" approach, as we jostle for position on our crowded roads. It's a good job guns aren't legal over here, otherwise there would be road rage shootings every day, without a doubt. I'd probably rig up my piece so it could sit in a cradle attached to the driver's door, operated by a simple lever system that allowed me to pull the trigger from the comfortable and safe confines of my vehicle. Bursting tyres and shattering kneecaps of the ignorant and the inconsiderate, left right and centre. That'll learn 'em.
Which brings me onto Rule 264 of the Highway Code:
You should always drive in the left-hand lane when the road ahead is clear. If you are overtaking a number of slower-moving vehicles, you should return to the left-hand lane as soon as you are safely past. Slow-moving or speed-restricted vehicles should always remain in the left-hand lane of the carriageway unless overtaking. You MUST NOT drive on the hard shoulder except in an emergency or if directed to do so by the police, traffic officers in uniform or by signs.
This rule is no doubt in place so that drivers know where the slower and faster moving vehicles are going to be on the carriageway. This safety point is particularly important on motorways where there are three, sometimes four, lanes of traffic moving at different speeds. Of course, the theory doesn't always translate into practice, so here is a rewrite of Rule 264 to reflect the reality on our motorways:
You should always drive in the middle lane of the motorway. This is to minimise any risk of skidding off the motorway in the event that you stray from the lane whilst using your mobile phone. If you are overtaking a number of slower-moving vehicles, you should drive as close up to them as possible before overtaking at the very last minute. You must then remain in the right-hand lane until a driver behind flashes their headlights at you. Slow-moving or speed-restricted vehicles should always remain in the left-hand lane of the carriageway unless overtaking, and you should sound your horn in frustration as you pass them. You MUST ALWAYS drive on the hard shoulder in the event of slow moving traffic that prevents you from reaching your exit junction quickly.
Note: Tongue firmly in cheek.
Remember, it is an offence to use a hand-held phone or similar device whilst driving. Is it an offence to eat a banana whilst driving? Funnily enough, the Highway Code is silent on this matter, but do have a read of this article.
2. We love cats and dogs
The British have a long-standing love affair with domestic pets, particularly cats and dogs. Some people would even prefer the company of their pet than another human being. Mind you, there are some pretty irritating and obnoxious folk out there, so I suppose I could forgive them. However, an animal over a human? Seriously? I just don't get it.
In 2015, there were reported to be 8.5 million dogs (that's 24% of households) and 7.4 million cats (that's 17% of households) in the UK. Why are they so popular? What does a pet actually do? Let's look at dogs.
- Dogs smell bad. Fact.
- Dogs leave hair everywhere. Fact.
- Dogs lick your face at every opportunity. Fact.
- Dogs dribble on your clothes. Usually in the crotch area. Fact.
- Dogs defecate in public spaces. And many owners do not clear this up as required by law. Fact.
- Dogs really are very stupid. Fact.
So what about cats? They're not quite as disgusting as dogs, which is a plus point, but they really just don't give a monkeys about anyone other than themselves, do they? They almost remind me of politicians, sitting there all haughty as us ordinary types go about our daily toil.
Personally, I'd have the bloody things shot. Now, did I mean dogs, their owners, cats, or our politicians?
3. We don't like kids
We are not really a child-friendly society. If you are a parent, you can probably understand that, because children, through various behaviours - deliberate or otherwise - make you look and feel 25% older than what you are and make you look and feel 75% poorer than what you used to be. That behaviour has a lot to answer for and is the reason so many people do not like kids.
Who wants to sit in a restaurant and listen to children shouting or crying or screaming, or have them running around the tables? Parental discipline is well out of the window in the UK so do expect this if visiting a dining establishment that hasn't completely banned children.
If I see a parent with a baby in the boarding queue at the airport, I catch myself thinking, "I hope that isn't sitting anywhere near me." It's not the presence of the baby per se that is the problem - it is the fact that it is going to cry at some point during the flight and I am yet to experience a noise more unsettling than a baby crying. Other than, perhaps, Bruno Mars.
"Hey, Bruno! Just catch this grenade for me..."
4. We like the word "like"
So when I was younger, like, we, er, we didn't, like, talk like the kids nowadays. We were more like, "Hey, let's speak English, like!" without all the, like, interjections. So I'm like, "Why is everybody, like, everybody, who was born after like 1990 always saying 'like'"? Well you need to, like, examine grammatical, like, history. We all use, like, fillers because we can't, like, use highly-grammatical, like, language all the time. We all have to, like, pause and, like, think.
English speakers have always, like, used words to plug, like, gaps or make longer sentences, like, run smoothly. They probably did it in, like, Anglo Saxon times, so it's not a new, like, phenomenon.
A common uses of "like" by young, like, folk is when, like, reporting speech. For example: "She was like, "You can't speak proper English," and I was like, "Yes I can."
It is also used to, like, exaggerate an idea. "I, like, died of embarrassment when Kyle saw me in, like, McDonalds."
It has replaced the "erms" and "ahs" that used to litter our sentences almost undetected. The trouble is, "like" is so deeply annoying.
It annoyed me just writing that.
5. We don't like cyclists
As much as the standard of driving in the UK leaves a lot to be desired, cyclist don't fare much better, either. On the whole, most cyclists are generally good, but there is a core of them that really will push your patience to the limit. You will spot them easily because:
- They wear tight Lycra cycling trousers / shorts (they look a bit like ladies' leggings)
- They wear mirrored sunglasses
- They often wear helmet cams (the irony of this is breath-taking)
- They don't stop at red traffic lights
- They are always right, even when going through a red light
- They look as though they love themselves as much as Narcissus did
- They emit an air of arrogant superiority
You know, they actually appear to take themselves so seriously they have almost become a cycling parody.
"Beware of self-righteousness. The black devil of licentiousness destroys his hundreds, but the white devil of self-righteousness destroys his thousands."
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