My latest read ...

Lent to me by an American colleague (who wanted to work out what made me tick, I think)

Kate Fox, 2005, Watching the English, Hodder & Stoughton (at least the paperback)

Great fun, though I felt it getting a bit heavy at the end. Made me realise why I so often feel uncomfortable in company back in England, and gave me a better glimpse of why I am usually more comfortable in company here.


This caused quite a stir when it first came out, as far as I remember, with large sections of the London criterati rejecting Fox’s characterisations of the English as out-dated, broad-brush and exaggerated.

This made me think that the characterisations must be reasonably accurate.

I certainly felt they were pretty accurate, in the sense that I could see what she was saying as being applicable to me, and also to my reactions to the few fellow English expatriates I am acquainted with here in Xiamen.

Perhaps she got closer to home than those critics were comfortable with. But I’m comfortable with it. I can see how I don’t really fit any single set of class characteristics, as she depicts them. Rather I show a fair number of characteristics from upper-middle, combined with some which are more lower-middle and I guess middle-middle. I realise that it’s the result of my background: fair amount of time spent in early years with grandparents (retired coal-miner and ex-tweeny), minor public school and international home life, much of it mixing with diplomats, academics and professionals such as doctors.

But it does mean I don’t know where I fit when I’m back in England … one of my former students, when I protested that some stereotypical thing she had said about men was not true of me, replied in a flash, “Well, we all know you’re really an alien!”. Here on the other hand, it doesn’t matter at all … I can be myself as it’s OK for me to be an alien. Mind you, my managing editor at the TV Station, after a visit to London during which my wife had invited him and other colleagues from the university to dinner at our house, looked me squarely in the eye and said, “Now I know what you are … you’re middle class!”; and there have been rumours going around in Xiamen that I’m a member of the aristocracy …


I won’t, or can’t comment on the book, since I haven’t read it. I have, however, just read Catherine Bennet’s review of it. … tion.news1

What’s tweaking my synapses (at least the ones that still work), is the conviction, that this book, would probably have been better written by one of those two miscreants, Diski and Bywater, or the other yobo, Brysen.

The queuing thingy is old hat, it’s been trotted out more times than the best china, for Sunday afternoon tea. I’m sure if someone came up with a more efficient/civilised method, we would adopt it.

Mind you! There are certain types, who would cause you to question the wisdom/efficacy of queuing, when stood behind them at the till. :open_mouth: Nuf said about that.

Update. Wed Jan 12th. 9-45 pm.
Having downloaded a sample of, WtE. and bearing in mind my comments above, I’m pleasently surprised to sense shades of all my three prefered authors, in Kate’s prose/narrative.

I’ve just read that review; it made me think of one of my best friends at university, with whom I shared a flat during my fourth year, his B.Mus. year. He’d done his BA in music and by the time he graduated, he couldn’t enjoy listening to music any more … on his own admission.

He’d come back from a trip to the record shop — yes, 12" vinyl in those days — with a new recording, put it on his stereo, and 10 minutes later, he’d take it off and set off back to the shop to return it, as something about the performance irritated him too much.

I remember one day I bought a record of Brahms’ “German Requiem” … a beautiful performance with Fischer-Dieskau. I brought it home and put it on … Suddenly the door of his room burst open and he came out saying, “That’s awful!” I said, “What’s the matter?” He said, “The tympanist just played a B-natural when he should have played a B-flat!” … This, with the full orchestra playing and Fischer-Dieskau in full voice. I felt sorry for Robert. Mind you, he went on to do a PhD in music! I just hope he learnt to enjoy it again.

I suspect the same thing happens with critics like Catherine Bennet … they can no longer simply enjoy reading but have to spend all their time looking for holes to pick.


Apropos the above: Only having read Kate’s ruminations on her, proposed, intentions to engage in multiple bouts of queue-jumping, before I put the excerpt down, it’s possible that her slant on, and analysis, of, the ‘English Queueing phenomenon’, is an original one, uniquely her’s. Shall check it out later, and see where I’ve gone wrong.

hi gudeveng
just read What is Coming? by H.G.Wells
Is a book on an attempt to analyze the effects of the Great War and to determine what will happen after the war.