“We are not amused”

I blame Hugh Grant. Ever since that idiot bumbled his way across a series of “feel-good” English comedies, falling over, saying, “whoops a daisy” and getting all flustered, foreigners are convinced that all English people are like this. Watch any film with him in it. Apparently, we either live in well-furbished flats in the centre of London, or some chocolate-box village in Middle England, where we drive around the gently rolling hills in Land Rovers. How we afford this is beyond me, as we seem to do little more than hold down a string of low stress office jobs. Oh yeah and it snows all the bloody time in winter.

The problem is, England’s very good at promoting an image overseas of nice, polite English people who queue for buses and talk like they’ve got plums in their mouths, when people are confronted with the reality it can be a little disconcerting.

Coming from a northern English area where the main past-times are fighting and xenophobia I often have problems with this. For one, I’ve got an accent that, according to one person “sounds like a tractor going over rocks in a field.” This tends to cause problems when I meet people who think we all talk like Hugh Grant. The reactions range from “are you from Scotland” to “Okay, and when are you going to stop talking dialect.” But, until the day when northern English becomes the lingua franca of the whole world, I guess I’ll have to live with it.

But the people I feel really sorry for are the ones who end up actually coming to my part of England.

They’re expecting foggy streets where Sherlock Holmes rides about in a carriage while Oscar Wilde sits in a café making up witty bon mots. What they actually get is unemployed chavs in tracksuits stumbling around the town centre asking people “what the f**k are you looking at?” before having a bottle smashed in their face. Wayne Rooney is the true face of England now.

And what is this with the “tea at 5pm” thing? Yes, I drink tea, but I don’t ritually drop everything to drink it out of a china cup. I actually prefer “Sergeant Major’s tea.” The tea must have been brewing for at least five days, have about four spoons of sugar in it and be drunk out of chipped mug.

Ok, enough ranting, I’m off home to have high tea with the Queen, who will certainly say, “We are not amused”. Then I’ll have a comic romance with Kate Winslet. Or Cate Blanchett. I haven’t decided yet.

John Hodgshon

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