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An extract from "Watching the English"

by Kate Fox, 2014


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That's the way things are. Cars are 'temperamental'; boilers are 'a bit unpredictable'; washing machines 'have off days'; toasters, kettles and doorknobs 'have a bit of a tendancy to play up'; flush mechanisms 'only work if you pump it twice and hold it down the second time – there's a bit of a knack to it'; computers can be guaranteed to 'go on the blink' at the wrong moment and wipe out your files; you always choose the slowest queue; deliveries are always late; builders never finish a job properly; you always wait ages for a bus and then three come along at once; nothing ever works properly; something always goes wrong, and on top of that it's bound to rain. To the English, these are established, incontrovertable facts; they are on a par with two-plus-two-is-four and the laws of physics. We start learning these mantras in our cradles, and by the time we are adults this Eeyorish view of the world is part of our nature.

Unless you fully appreciate this perculiar mindset and its implications you will never truly understand the English. Try repeating the above mantras to yourself every day for about twenty years, and you'll get the idea. Recite them in a resignedly humorous tone, adding the odd 'mustn't grumble' or 'never mind' or 'better make the best of it', and you will be well on your way to becoming English. Learn to greet every problem, from a piece of burnt toast to World War Three, with 'Typical!', somehow managing to sound simultaneously peeved, stoical and smugly omniscient, and you will qualify as a fully acculturated English person.


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