Friday, 9 October 2015

The elephant in the room.

During the strikes of the 1970s, our house became the most popular house on our street.

Not many people had more than one television, but we did. More importantly, our second television was a cutting edge, monochrome, portable television that my father had acquired from a chap by the name of "Sniffy", a friend of his who was employed as a security guard on the docks.

My mother wasn't best pleased. The huge, crackling, teak clad box in the front living room displayed her favourite shows in glorious technicolour and was big enough to see from her seat on the settee, and so the tiny, black and white set he'd staggered home from the Staff of Life pub with that Friday evening was left on a shelf in the garage. Until the strikes.

Our electricity went off every night. For some reason, though, the television stations were able to remain broadcasting throughout the blackouts. Broadcasting to an audience of folk with no electricity in the 1970s meant very low viewing figures. Unless you lived on our street.

The little, grey television in the garage was carried into the living room, along with the battery from my fathers car. The portable television had a DC socket on the back and, with the assistance of the old bloke who lived next door and a big, cardboard box filled with cables, wires and connectors, our living room was once again bathed in the flickering light of Coronation Street.

The only house on the street with the comforting glow of cathode rays spilling out through the crack in the curtains made our house as inconspicuous as an elephant at a dinner party, and by the time Corrie had ended our living room was packed to the gills with neighbours. It was fucking brilliant.

The strikes didn't last forever, and once our neighbours had gone back to looking down their noses at my packing case maker father and cashier girl mother, the television was once again redundant and I became the first child in Salford to have a television in my bedroom. I felt like a king.

The TV was installed atop the drawers in the corner of my room and I began watching all those shows I'd not been allowed to watch in the past. They were shit.

Try as I might I could find very little of interest to a five year old boy, no matter how late I stayed up, on any of the three channels available. It was most frustrating. "Maybe," I thought, "the good stuff is on in the daytime". That made sense, selfish grown-ups putting the good stuff on when we urchins couldn't watch it. I formulated a plan.

Whilst my mother was preparing a healthy, nutritious breakfast (A bowl of ReadyBrek with half a pound of sugar dumped on it) I held my palms against the radiator in the lounge. Whenever I could hold them against the surface no longer I placed my palms on my cheeks, over and over until I was flushed and clammy. Then I stuck my fingers down my throat.

Sufficiently convinced, my mother sent me back to bed for the day.

That day was the longest day of my life. Daytime television in the 70s was approximately eight times more shit than the evening stuff. Open University, some gardener bloke, the bloody news and no remote control. Oh, the humanity of it all.

At some point, I watched a show about three blind beggars in India and an elephant. Filmed in stop-motion, it told the tale of the beggars being led, one at a time, into a room with an elephant in it. Each was asked to touch the beast and to describe it. One felt the elephants leg and thought it a tree. The second felt it's tail and thought it a snake. Finally, the third felt the trunk and declared it to be a hosepipe. God, it was boring.

But, as tedious as it may have been at the time, the message got through. It's all a matter of perspective. That day I drank a lot of Lucozade, watched shit television, vowed never to pretend to be poorly again and learnt that you should always have the full picture. The end of the elephant in the room show demonstrated that, once the three men had spoken to one and other and having shared their own individual experiences, they realised they'd been examining an elephant. They cooperated and, as a result, knew the truth.

Some of you may have become aware of a Facebook post that went viral. Authored by an American visitor to our shores, a Mr. Scot Waters, it sums up his experience of Britain. It's brilliant. (If you've not already read it, you can find it HERE.)

Now, like a blind beggar being experimented on by an Asian emperor, I've undertaken to expand on his work and offer a different perspective for a few of his points.

1. "Almost everyone is very polite."

Thank you.

2. "The food is generally outstanding."

See #19.

3. "There are no guns."

There are no guns.

4. "There are too many narrow stairs."

I think you'll find there are just the right number of narrow stairs to reach the tops of the narrow staircases.

5. "The reason they drive on the left is because all their cars are built backwards."

Actually, it's so we can practice our jousting on the daily commute.

6. "You'd better like peas, potatoes and sausage."

...but if you don't, there's always #19.

7. Refrigerators... ...are very small.

See #43.

8. "People don't seem to be afraid of their neighbours or the government."

We're afraid, where appropriate, but fear is nothing to be afraid of. Stiff upper lip, old chap.

9. "Their paper money makes sense, the coins don't."

Your cents make money.

10. "Everyone has a washing machine, but driers are rare."

Clothes won't wash themselves, but left to their own devices they'll dry. See #13.

11. "Pants are called "trousers", underwear are "pants" and sweaters are "jumpers.""

Trousers are called trousers, underwear underwear and sweaters are what we call our MPs whilst they're being audited.

12. "Fanny" is a naughty word, as is "shag".

My Aunty Fanny would disagree with half of that statement, and she'd admonish you for saying "shag".

13. "Doors close by themselves, but they don't always open."

Occam's razor. See #10.

14. "They don't seem to use facecloths or napkins or maybe they're just neater than we are."

At least once a week I have to tell Dickfingers that she has pie crust or sausage roll in her hair.

15. "The wall outlets all have switches, some don't do anything."

Those that do nothing are actually wall safes. We keep our tiaras and monocles in them.

17. "Black people are just people: They didn't quite do slavery here."

We did, and we made a fair few quid out of it as well. We're every bit as bad as everyone else.

18. "Cookies are "biscuits" and potato chips are "crisps"."

Cookies are indeed biscuits, that's just generic, and potato chips are what we call crisps when we want to pay over the odds for them.

19. "HP sauce is better than catsup."

HP sauce is better than EVERYTHING!

20. "After fish and chips, curry is the most popular food."

I'm generally far too full to eat a curry after my fish and chips. See #43.

21. There are no guns.

There are no guns.

22. "Look right, walk left. Again; look right, walk left. You're welcome."

I just tried that, it makes you walk like a hieroglyphic.

23. "It's not that hard to eat with the fork in your left hand with a little practice. If you don't, everyone knows you're an American."

Honestly, even if you didn't do that we'd still know.

24. "There's no AC."

It's fucking freezing.

25. "Instead of turning the heat up, you put on a jumper."

We prefer onesies. Dickfingers has a pig onesie, mine is Elvis - the Vegas years. Rhinestones and everything.

26. "You don't have to tip, really!"

You don't have too, but you should. Really!

27. "Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Cornwall really are different countries."

Cornwall is a different PLANET.

28. "Only 14% of Americans have a passport, everyone in the UK does."

That's because the rich take lots of holidays and the poor want to be ready in case they get the chance to escape to somewhere nice.

29. "Their TV looks and sounds much better than ours."

Yes, but to even things out you chaps made Breaking Bad.

30. "They took the street signs down during WWII, but haven't put them all back up yet."

We discovered all we had to do was tell our kids what the streets are called.

31. "Everyone enjoys a good joke."

B'dum, Tsssh.

32. There are no guns.


33. "Dogs are very well behaved and welcome everywhere."

My German Shepherd is a bastard and most people hate him. That said, he is German.

34. "There are no window screens."

A window IS a screen, isn't it?

35. "You can get on a bus and end up in Paris."

Yep, that's one stag-night I'll never forget.

36. "Butter and eggs aren't refrigerated."

That's because we have little space in our tiny fridges.

37. "Excess cider consumption can be very painful."

It's not the consumption that hurts, it's the cessation of consumption. Consume more.

38. "The money is easy to understand: 1-2-5-10-20-50 pence, then £1-£2-£5-£10, etc. bills. There are no quarters."

I've always thought, if you chaps bother with a 25c coin, why haven't you done a $25 note?

39. "Many doorknobs, buildings and tools are older than America."

I'm pretty sure there are one or two Navajo that would disagree with you on that one.

40. "By law, there are no crappy, old cars."

Which is why Dickfingers and I can't afford one.

41. "Soccer is a religion, religion is a sport."

IT'S FOOTBALL, FOR FUCKS SAKE! How many times do we have to point out that a game played predominantly with your hands isn't bloody football?

42. "Europeans dress better than the British, we dress worse."

Technically, Britons ARE Europeans, but you're right.

43. "There are far fewer fat English people."

See #7.

44. "Displaying your political or religious affiliation is considered very bad taste."

Only if you're a Tory.

45. "Every pub has a pet drunk."

Pleased to meet you.

46. "Their healthcare works, but they still bitch about it."

We love our NHS, what we're really bitching about is the destruction of it by big business and government.

47. "Cake is one of the major food groups."

To paraphrase one of your most famous fellow countrymen, "Mmmm, caaaaaake!"

48. "Their coffee is mediocre but their tea is wonderful."

Granted, except when Dickfingers brews up. Her tea is shit as well.

49. "There are still no guns."

There are no guns, except the ones that were secretly being aimed at the unarmed protesters in my home town last week.

50. "Towel warmers!"



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