What they think of the English. Sorry, British. Very sorry about that. Terribly sorry…

Our media creates many ways in which it believes the world should view the English, I’ve realized this over many years working as a travel writer. I say ‘English’ as that’s what’s generally meant when any journalist talks of the British. At least if they’re saying bad stuff. If they say nice things, they’ll ensure they mention the words Scottish, Irish or Welsh. Such is the world we live in; archytypes have got to be upheld, you can only rock the boat so much before people start getting too sick to pay attention to what you’re writing. The Scots are so friendly, right. Ahh, good Scot, good boy, now, sit! Fetch! Oh, look how friendly they are!

That’s not to say the Scots aren’t in fact very friendly. They are. But I’ve known so many journalists that I’d advise you to understand that 75% of what most of them write or say is an outright lie and the rest is probably a lie but they don’t really know as they’re not very experienced people, although it sounds quite good and Gonzo writing is a precedent, right, so why not just say it. Who cares if it’s true. It might be and it makes the writer sound like a hip hero, which is good enough reason to cast a nation into the black in anybodies book. Either way, its best just to put a blanket ‘no trust’ zone around any current writer who’s name isn’t John Pilger. But you’re not going to do that, so, I continue…

It’s important what the media says, for however much we like to think we’re independent of thought, mostly we’re not. The Brexit commotion highlighted this. Whether they voted stay or leave, if you heard the voters talking it became clear that the vast majority hadn’t thought very deeply at all about the subject. It was clear that these are people who can be easily and deeply influenced by a person who maybe inexperienced in life yet experienced in working the angles.

And if the masters of the world are that dumb, how much fun can the media have with the rest of the planet’s population…

Yes, that’s satire. Calm yourself.

Before I start though, the word Brexit. Here’s some advice, fellow Brits. If you’re going to let your journalists sum up such an important subject matter with a silly soundbite word (Brexit? Say it over and over in a quiet place, it sounds ridiculous, right? Such a dumb word, only the over educated/under experienced would even utter it and not be terminally ashamed at their bad taste in language) then you really don’t deserve anything other than the condemnation that the rest of the world heaps upon you. Get some class into your backbones and learn the meaning of the concept of boycotting dodgy media. Learn to recognise the type of person who might just hold some wisdom.

Although don’t look for them within the pages of guide books (I mention them as I’ve used such books often until recently, much more so than TV, magazines or newspapers). For if you do you’ll find that same old media again, doing their best to build walls between us and thus create tension, and within that, jobs for themselves. For if there’s tension, theres something to report on, right?

Bad teeth, bad food, football hooligans – that’s the press that England, ahem, Britain, gets again and again in other countries via the guidebooks. Anybody suprised? It’s also a nation where those bad types are imagined to be living harmoniously alongside distinguished, posh middle-class men in top hats and women with parasols. Seriously, get yourself down a library and pick up any guidebook. See for yourself the sort of triple-reverse racism that passes as experienced observation nowadays.

But stereotypes aside, what information is really being fed back to our foreign friends about us Brits? Here’s a few examples from the travel guides…

The People
“Calmness in the face of adversity, a laconic sense of humour, a sense of decency and fair play, and mastery of understatement are all fundamental facets of the British character – at least, as seen by the British themselves. Ask the French and you might get a rather different list of attributes that includes stand-offishness, anti-intellectualism, public drunkenness and being crap at cooking.” – Lonely Planet, Great Britain, 8th Edition

This is a bit harsh old chap, we’re not that bad at cooking. We have that very polite chef, the friendly Scot with the red face, to teach us all about it, Gordon Ramsey, remember? Although thanks to our calmness in the face of adversity and laconic sense of humour we can laugh that kind of misconception off whilst those Frenchies sit in the Cafe Flores debating whether the table is in fact a pizza (here’s a clue, Pierre, try to eat it). Not that there aren’t other ways to make us cry…

“The nostalgic English – especially after a few pints – can get downright weepy about their White Cliffs of Dover.” – Frommer’s England 2010, published in the US.

Those white cliffs – get you every time don’t they? I just fall to my knees and weep whenever I see them. And if there’s World War  II planes flying over them and some stirring music playing, or a Winston Churchill speech being broadcast, you might as well write me off. I’ll be so overcome with emotion I shan’t be able to tell those pesky Germans that we’ll fight them on the beaches, although perhaps not on the football field, for days.

The Culture
“The British are famously addicted to forming orderly queues, be it for buses, train tickets, or to pay at the supermarket. The order is sacrosanct and woe betide any foreigner who gets this wrong. Few things are more calculated to spark an outburst of tutting – about as publicly cross as most Brits get – than ‘pushing in’ at a queue.” – Lonely Planet, Great Britain, 8th Edition

Yep, queuing – we love it. Can’t get enough of it. I can stand in a good queue all day, I can. It’s a right good knees up. Unless it’s getting dangerously close to 4pm and I’m  in danger of not looking like we’re going to be back in time to boil the kettle…

“From the lowliest ‘caff’ (cafeteria) in the working-class districts of Birmingham to the Queen’s posh Buckingham Palace suite, class tradition melts at four o’clock every afternoon as the nation pauses to partake of its most beloved ritual: Afternoon Tea.” – Frommer’s England 2010, published in the USA


Although not 100% factually accurate  – nobody I have ever met stops for tea at 4 and if they did they’d get a kicking from my old nan should she be still alive – there are worse descriptions of collective England out there:

“England is a nation of overweight, binge-drinking reality TV addicts” – Rough Guide to England, 8th Edition – published in over 200 countries

Alright, Rough Guide, don’t hold back. Tell it like it is.

At least nobody mentioned the fact that we put all of our poor kids to work sweeping chimneys and we feed them nothing but gruel. Once a day, only.

The Places
“Liverpool and Manchester are as depressing places as you’re likely to find anywhere… whilst the locals can be entertaining on a good day, the weather is shit, heroin is epidemic (but meth is catching on) and you’ve got a better chance of thugs putting you in hospital for no apparent reason than in any other part of England – and that’s saying something.” – US website Road Junky Travel

Calm down, calm down. I guess that’s one way to look at two of our most happening, cosmopolitan cities. But what is the world’s best selling guidebook’s conception of England’s capital?

“When a yobbo in a car – radio on full-blast, mobile glued to the ear, indicator controls untouched – nearly runs you over at a pedestrian crossing and you protest, he dissolves into road rage as only Londoners know it.” – Lonely Planet

Enough said. Anybody would think that the Lonely Planet was started by an Australian with a grudge against the mother country…

The Food
“Brits love a big hearty feed of bangers and mash, fish and chips with mushy peas, pork pies or pasties. Curry also rates highly (a popular import from colonial days in India) along with loads of other dishes reflecting Britain’s multicultural population. With all that good food going around, it’s hardly surprising more than 60 per cent of people in the UK are either overweight or obese.” – www.tnt.com, travel magazine for Australian, New Zealand and South African expats

“With all that food going round?” It’s not like we eat it all at once. As for bangers and mash, mmm, really, you’d be hard pushed to find a place serving that, and as for fish and chips, there is just one shop in the whole of London and the South East that serves it well cooked, just one. And no, I’m not telling you were it is, because I’m vegan and you shouldn’t eat that rubbish and because I’m British and therefore racist and would never allow a foreigner access to our best food (if you’re British, PM me proof of citizenship and I can give you the low down on good vegan joints…).

It’s not all bad news; at least some guidebooks are beginning to realise that the UK’s culinary habits are changing, and our reputation for bad food is no longer justified…

“If you want to see what Britain is eating today, just drop in at Harvey Nicol’s Fifth Floor, in London’s Knightbridge.” – Frommer’s England 2010

Absolutely – a place where you have to have a second mortgage to pay for afternoon tea. It’s where us common Brits eat all the time.

More to come on this; wait til the media properly gets hold of Brexit and runs with it. The guide books are gonna make for some fun reading.

Perhaps not fun, though. The lies of the inexperienced invariably turn into points of view. Points of view are expressed and the easiest to enact become self fullfilling tragedies. Before you know it everybodies an angry racist who loves their mother really, and Jagger’s lounging with Bulgakov sipping margaritas at the funeral of your beautiful souls.  Think, more.

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