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Becoming British

19 Jul

I am really not a sporty person.

From my previous posts, that probably comes as no surprise. But it is becoming a problem.

For you see, I am British. And that means that for the next month or so, the only item on the news, the only story in the newspapers, the only think that would appear to be happening in the world right now…is the Olympics. Don’t get me wrong, I am excited. But more in the kind of “Ooh, London looks nice! Ooh, have we won something?” way than either the fiercely patriotic or sports obsessed ways that seem to be the only “acceptable” ways to be interested in the Olympics.

But then, seeing as I am British (had you got that yet?), the fact the Olympics are here means that I don’t have the chance of seeing another country (not that I would have gone anyway, but it’s the idea…). However, most people aren’t British (I know, I am just too good at Geography), and so don’t know our quirks. They can have the pleasure of seeing Britain (or more precisely, England. Sorry Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) for the first time. So, here today for those of you who are not yet indoctrinated into the cult, I have compiled a list of…how to pretend you’re (part) English (again…sorry).
1. Tea.
This is somewhat over-exaggerated in stereotypes of the English-but they aren’t far off. Honestly, tea addiction is reckoned to be at something like 12 cups per day. When my grandparents came over to stay a while ago, I was making at least 15 cups a day. Tea matters. But don’t go to fancy lengths like you see in those Pinterest graphics, which feature chic cartoon characters brewing their tea for exactly 3.5 minutes. No one does that. Plonk the tea bag in the cup, pour water over, add milk (or switch the last two round if you must), squeeze tea bag, remove and drink. Done.
2. Cakes.
This one covers Afternoon tea as well. Again, an over-exaggeration…but then we do have a cake named after one of our Queens (Victoria Sponge. If you don’t know what I’m talking about-and I pity you if you don’t-go and make one. Now). Other biscuits of choice include the Hob-Nob (oaty magnificence, sounds a bit strange), Chocolate Digestive (now you can get Cadbury ones as well. Two birds, one stone), and…well, quite a lot of others (Shortbread!), but if you’re going for the full stereotype, try a Rich Tea. The name sets you up for a huge disappointment; these are dry and nearly flavourless. Until you dunk them in tea. Then they taste like…well, more tea actually. But it’s the idea.
3. The Accent
To me, American/Australian/Any other country’s accents sound wrong. As I’m sure the English accent (see my earlier post) does to you. But if you want to pass yourself off, it’s the only way. Watch a lot of BBC drama and try not to use expressions you’ve heard. People do say “Bloody Hell!”, but if you even try “Guv’nor”, you will be stared at in a horrified manner.
4. Queuing
No, we don’t love queuing. But we do it anyway. Sometimes you just have to stand in a line for half an hour to get anywhere. It’s how things work. And there are a lot. So bite your lip and prepare to frown disapprovingly at queue-jumpers for the next 30 minutes. Bet you’re looking forward to it already.
So that was your first quick-stop guide into fooling people that you’re English. And if it isn’t fully accurate, at least you can now explain to others the wonder that is a Hob Nob.
Me? I’ll be crunching my way through them for the next month. Happy July!

Berlin: A Love Letter

7 Jul

This is a love letter written about 6 months ago to one of my favourite cities ever visited. It is cheesy, but I feel it says everything about my love for this city that I could ever express.

I never thought I would love you. I never expected to feel anything other than scant interest for you. And I never envisaged that a year on, I would still be dreaming about you. The photos I’d seen and the stories I’d heard could never have prepared me in the slightest for the body blow that was you.

Berlin.

The name alone: beautiful to those who have had a glimpse of your soul, perhaps plain to those who haven’t. But we both know that’s their loss. The the tongue in cheek symbolism hidden in those two short syllables. Ber-lin. The Berlin Bear mascots at every vending stall; waffles at 10 pm drenched in Nutella in the centre of a christmas market; snow to the waist with more predicted; wreaths of light draped around the city at every corner; the history: creation, devastation, resurrection. The streets and boulevards. The endless cycles of bread and meat that pass as meals. The Egyptian pyramid themed bowling alley hidden away on the top floor of an innocuous building.

Berlin.

No other city could ever have a tenth of your spirit, your unique charm. And besides from my home town, only one other city fascinates me as much as you. But there I speak the language and understand what’s happening.

Berlin, I love you.

 

City Dreaming

6 Jul

Well, depressingly I don’t have any photos of Cambridge. I feel I should say that now, to tone down anyone’s disappointment (not that my shaky shots of various buildings would have excited anyone, but, y’know, it’s the thought that counts).

But I did completely fall in love with Cambridge while I was there. Very different to my hometown (Oxford, referred to in Cambridge as “that other place”), and not necessarily better-different. Quieter, smaller, more tourists (which I honestly did not think was possible). But anyway, yes. Beautiful.

And so I can tick Cambridge off on the grand “

    List of Cities and Countries that I Really Want to go to”

And, in the spirit of blogging, I thought I’d share the rest. Feel free to argue, comment, add or subtract.

In no particular order:

New York
Canada
Madrid (again, but for longer)
Berlin (again)
Rome
Macchu Picchu
San Francisco
Southern Italy
South America
Australia
Barcelona
Seville

And possibly more I’ve forgotten. They will be added later when remembered!

British Bugbears

4 Jul

I’m going on an Open Day tomorrow. Visiting the University (and by definition, city) of Cambridge. And I am quite excited (I promise to take photos and post them). But that’s not the main purpose of this post, more of a forewarning-hopefully I’m going to have lots of photos!

I actually wanted to talk (briefly) about one of my interwebs pet hates. Mainly, the fact that when any accent from the British Isles is referred to in conversation, it’s always called a “british” accent.

Well, there’s no such thing.

Miniature history lesson: In 1603, Elizabeth I, Queen of England died, and James VI of Scotland (her cousin’s son) took the throne of England, hence uniting the nations (England already had control of Wales and Ireland. Although whether it actually had control of Ireland is a completely different post). Essentially, it was this (and the Act of Union 100 years later) which created “Britain”. Since then, Ireland has left Britain and Northern Ireland remains in it-although Scotland is going to vote in the next 2 years on whether they too want to remain.

So, when you say “British Accent”, what you most likely mean is an “English” accent. What you’re covering is a very, very large range of possibilities. And yes, of course these are all “British Accents”, in that they are various accents of Britain, but we all know that that’s not what people mean. England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales make up Britain, but they are also individual countries outside of it.

On a completely separate side note, England is currently going completely mental over the Olympics. I had some Jelly Mascot sweets earlier-wine gums in the shape of the (really strange) official mascots. It was quite surreal. We also have a huge countdown timer in the middle of Trafalgar Square (which broke the first day).

Rule Britannia?!

Salamanca

2 Jul

I recently went on a trip to Salamanca, Spain. It was amazing, especially considering that I’ve never actually been to Spain before (so I was glad to find out that it was a real language when I arrived, and not just some huge conspiracy). Upon my return, I did what I always do, and wrote a poem, as well as editing my myriad of pictures. So here you go.

Salamanca

Cream stone, tarnished and

The scent of stale smoke slipping

Under bar doors, through cracks in

Walls. Flowing into shops

Dark with years of secrets

And poisoned sugar varnishing floors.

Men shouting at screens, hung

On the walls of these bars. Outside

The streets are alight, alive

With people and light and life, released

After so many years. Babbling,

A river woven through air

Of clicks and long vowels

And breathy greetings. The

Fire and spice of life in every word;

Incongruous

With the cold and barren

Convents on every street.

Locked away, through choice, calling,

Calamity.

But beneath the heat life spice

A silence. Things unsaid

But never forgotten. A death,

A hole, a pact.

Vive España en mi memoria.