What people really want to know about Britain, part something

Let’s take a break from the way the world (or at least the U.S. as I once knew it) is imploding and ask what people really want to know about Britain. Because I don’t know about you, but I need a break from reality.

If you haven’t been reading Notes for long, here’s how I figure out what the world wants to know: I read the questions that lead people here. It’s highly unscientific, since people who want to know about Roman walls wouldn’t have, until today, found anything to lead them here, but what the hell, it’s the method I have to hand.


A rare relevant photo: A bit of Roman wall, now fencing off someone's garden in Exeter.

A rare relevant photo: A bit of Roman wall, now fencing off someone’s backyard in Exeter.

As always, people wanted to know about judges’ wigs, and occasionally about lawyers’ wigs. Someone wanted to know why barristers wear wigs, and I live to inform the curious multitudes. It’s because they want to. In spite of all the studying they had to do to become barristers, they watched too much TV and it left them with the impression that they’d look important if they ran around with white, sideways Shirley Temple curls on their heads.

No, I can’t explain it either.

Bonus relevant photo: A single stone, carefully placed in the same yard, which I'd call a garden if I weren't, at heart, American. Our best guess is that that the wall was hit when Exeter was bombed during World War II.

Bonus relevant photo: A single stone from the Roman wall, carefully placed in the same yard, which I’d call a garden if I weren’t, at heart, American. Our best guess is that that the wall was hit when Exeter was bombed during World War II.

A related comment (it wasn’t really a question) read, (and as usual, these come with no capital letters or question marks), “the wig which judges wear in uk courts is a with answers.”

Got that? If the writer’s correct, all those judges share a single wig. This has to be awkward, since although Britain looks small if you’re sitting in a big country like the U.S., it actually takes quite a bit of time to drive a single wig from courthouse to courthouse, stopping at every last one from Land’s End to John O’Groats and from Fishguard to the white cliffs of Dover. No wonder the courts are building up a backlog. It’s not budget cuts, it’s because that damned wig got caught in traffic.

Why do the judges have to wait for the wig to arrive? Because they’ve also been watching too much TV, but also because, as the writer says, “is a with answers.” The wig has the answers. Want to know the correct precedent for the case in front of you (and this is especially important in a country with an unwritten constitution that consists of a random number of historical documents and every damn precedent ever precedented)? The wig knows what it is.

And then it moves on.

Americans, as always, want to know what the British think of them, and especially if they hate them or like them. What is it with my fellow countrypeople? Is crossing the border into a foreign country so terrifying that we have to slip a message in a bottle before we take the risk, asking, “Is anyone out there? Do you hate me?”

Right now, a lot of the people I run into are asking what’s wrong with us (the us here being Americans), and I don’t have a good answer. If you’re American and visit Britain, please don’t take that as personal hostility. It’s political. And it’s a not a bad question.

Within a few days, over a million Britons signed a petition asking to ban Trump from making a state visit to the U.K. But relax, friends, no one’s doing anything extreme like proposing a ban on anyone with an American passport if they were born into one religion or another.

Several questions this time around asked about the phrase tickety boo. One person just typed in the phrase. Another wanted to know who says it. J. does from time to time. So do other people. Does that help?

Probably not. Here’s where I tell you everything I know about it. And more.

As always, a few people wanted to know about British beer and a few others wanted to compare American and British swearing. For all I’ve written about tea, no one who wanted to know about it was led here, they were all seized by larger sites. Grumble, grumble, grumble.

Someone wanted to know, “how to drive straight in a narrow.” Um,  you do that by not turning the wheel. Someone else typed in, “uk narrow streets dangerous for driving.” Oh, I dunno. If you’re careful not to hit anyone, they’re okay. They may be more work than a wide street, but I’m not sure they’re any more dangerous.

A third person asked, “Why are englands roads so narrow.” Because, my friend, a whole shitload of them were built before the first car was ade. They were the widths people needed (or could afford) back then. And—you know how this works—folks built their houses alongside them. And then cars were invented and traffic got out of control and even though people tried shoving the houses back a few feet it didn’t work, so they left them where they were and there they sit to this day. And when one or two of them fall apart or get torn down, they’re replaced by newer buildings but since the neighboring buildings are usually still standing, the road stays narrow.

And that’s how the crocodile got its tale.

Aren’t you glad I’m here to sort this shit out?

The usual wheelbarrowload of people wanted to know why Britain is called Great Britain, or simply why it’s called great. It’s not a moral judgment, it means big. Someone did ask, though, why it was called Britain, which is an interesting twist on the question and if life ever settles down a bit I’ll see what sort of answers I can dig out.

Almost as many people asked about brussels sprouts (usually in the form of why they’re eaten at Christmas) as asked about why Britain was called great. Now that tells you what’s important in the culture.

Someone wanted to know about “Russian hotel aftermath/torch [explicit].” That was before the allegations about Trump and golden showers in a Russian hotel, although maybe somebody knew something even then. Do the allegations mention a torch? I don’t remember any mention of that.

I also didn’t write about that. The search probably landed here because of a post about a hotel fire in Exeter. Which is not in Russia, it’s in Devon. And no one seems to be saying the place was torched.

As far as explicit goes, the post was pretty mild. Sorry if I’ve disappointed you. I lack imagination.

A few questions came from the clued-up. A few people wanted to read about emmits. It’s not something you ask about if you don’t already know a bit. Someone else wanted to know about “tutting in a queue.” Again, you have to know a bit about the British religion, which is standing in line—otherwise known as queuing—and British disapproval, which often takes the form of tutting, before you can ask the question. I’d give you a link to whatever I wrote about all that but I have no idea where it is. Google “tutting in a queue” and “Notes from the U.K.” and you may or may not find it.

Someone else asked, “why do mps walk five steps and bow.” Wow. Good question. Do they? Always? No wonder it’s so hard to accomplish anything sensible. The MPs (that’s Members of Parliament to the uninitiated) are all running around the Westminster chess board like knights with a twitch, one step forward and two to the side, then they bow. With two hops in the middle so it adds up to five.

Can I go watch?

One lone soul asked about kitten post it notes. I’ve used the word post, sometimes in the context of blogging and sometimes in the context of the Royal Mail. And when Fast Eddie was a kitten, I posted (and there’s that word again) photos because I was threatened with a boycott if I didn’t. So there you go. It all comes together.

Someone wanted to know about cockwombles. It was one of my more profound posts, if I do say so myself.

And finally, someone wrote, “notes i have my own rules to.” Uh huh. I have a few of my own rules, and lots of notes. I can even decipher some of then. Others are as much of a mystery as that comment is. I’ll leave it for you to figure out.

Stay sane, people. The world’s getting crazy. And speak up, because this is when it matters. It really, really matters.

88 thoughts on “What people really want to know about Britain, part something

  1. I love this post!! It made me chuckle…which is welcome at the moment!!

    I love love the idea of a shared Judge wig…being couriered around the country at high speeds by a little person on motorbike with a special ceremonial box strapped to the back and flashing lights!! It would explain a lot abut the judicial system…

    I also can picture exactly the MPs all shuffling, hopping and bowing… it seems that it is quite possibly the only explanation for parliament to be honest :-D

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I like tea. Very much.
    I like Earl Grey, Assam, Malawi, Rwanda, Dimbula, Yorkshire – all loose leaf – and, thanks to a Christmas present form a friend, Yunnan black FOP – reputedly the Queen’s favourite tea.
    I warm the pot (we have six or so pots at the moment, one is an 8 cup traditional ‘Brown Betty’ and is used for breakfast when many cups are required to get us working) and let the leaf tea brew in freshly boiled water. Boiling, note, Americans, not hot. And not warm water in a glass with a tea bag on the side (horrified face). I drink them all with milk (not creamer, yuk) and I am pre-lactarian. It has been scientifically proven (an article in the New Scientist said so – thus it must be true) that post-lactarians while feeling a sense of righteous superiority thinking it is posher are wrong. It also creates additional washing-up as you have to stir your tea.
    I also like Rooibos loose leaf and honeybush loose leaf.I do not like Gunpowder Green but I do like Russian Caravan. And among flavoured teas I rather like Whittards’ Imperial Spice or Christmas tea.
    You did say something about being disappointed no-one mentioned tea, right? ;-)

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t remember saying that but I should’ve, because I enjoyed that. And it leads me to say (surely the world needs to know this) that I like loose leaf tea but I tend to mismeasure it, getting it either too strong or too weak, so I’m more likely to use (gasp) teabags.

      Now, the American thing about using lukewarm water and letting the teabag sit on the opposite side of the cup or glass so they get to know each other before being thrown together: I don’t know why we do that except that we don’t really drink tea. And it gives our British friends something safer than our politics to be horrified by.

      All you Brits who really believe our two countries have a special relationship, take a look at the way we make tea and ask yourself: Is this someone I’d really want to spend my life with?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Ha! I am doubly lucky in that my in-house American makes the morning tea and is a perfectionist about the timing so I can stay longer in bed as he takes forever to make it. Me, when it’s brewed (or mashed as they say in Yorkshire) it’s brewed. No timer needed.
        Be amazed at how carefully I read this post: tan tara: “For all I’ve written about tea, no one who wanted to know about it was led here, they were all seized by larger sites. Grumble, grumble, grumble.” OK so not quite disappointed about no mentions. Anyway, teabags are ok if you must – better than nothing! But boiling water. Boiling. No excuses. :-)

        Liked by 2 people

        • When I became a citizen, it was explained–emphatically–that if I failed to brew tea with boiling water my passport would vaporize. So I’m meticulous about that.

          I have read about mashing tea and pictured someone standing over a teapot with a potato masher. I never did figure out how they fit the potato masher through the opening at the top of the teapot.

          Liked by 2 people

  3. Is anyone trying to make Britain great again? I do have a solution for the wig problem, I think you could afford a fleet of wig drones, which could fly over the traffic. That might work over there. Here, the wig-carrying drones would be identified as UFOs or aliens from UFOs and shot. By the way, I googled ‘Fast Eddie’ but apparently there’s a local pawn shop named Fast Eddie’s, so… I tried adding ‘Britain, but apparently, you had a notorious criminal who was nick named Fast Eddie. I think you need to sort this out.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Fast Eddie has consulted his lawyer and was told that, as a cat, he doesn’t have legal standing to sue anyone. He’s very upset and I wouldn’t want to be a mouse right now. I tried googling “Fast Eddie” and “Notes,” and even with that I got a whole mess of strange stuff but did find our own Fast Eddie at the bottom of the first page. On another day that might provide some consolation, but I doubt it’ll help today.

      Now, the drones. It might work–no one would shoot them–but there is the issue of tradition to wrestle with. It took years for the legal profession to accept that The Wig could be driven around the country in a car instead of in a carriage. I mean, the problem with drones is that they lack gravitas. And what’s the legal profession without gravitas, Dan?

      Liked by 3 people

  4. I did enjoy that.
    As a barrister-at-law (retired) I used to wear a wig when in a tribunal where court dress was required, which was not too often in my branch of the business. I acquired mine second hand from a chap who was retiring – it was a bit yellow and even after years in my possession still carried a faint aroma of stubbed out fags. I handed it on to one of my pupils when I ceased to practice.
    In my early days judges were quite particular about what was worn under the gown: men rash enough to be wearing a grey tie in the winter months were sternly told that the judge ‘could not see’ them and had to slope off and get a black one.
    There were some – a very few – judges for whom that traveling wig would have been a Godsend – for those appearing before them. It might have saved an eminent barrister from having to say to a judge
    ‘If your Lordship would be pleased to turn it over in what your Lordship is pleased to call your Lordship’s mind’….

    Liked by 5 people

    • That would be hard to say with a straight face. Which makes me realize that if keeping a straight face is the first test of a lawyer in this country, I’d never have made the grade. I can see myself collapsing into fits of giggles at the first sight of a judge. And all the more so if I reeked of cigarettes I never smoked.

      Liked by 5 people

  5. I’ve gotten a flurry of visitors lately curious to know about something called a “lasbian.” Or possibly a “lessbian”? And also about a “lasbian dog.” I dunno how to help them (maybe if I send ’em your way, the hopping wig with the flashing lights can get them some answers??), but the “3 lovely lesbriab” do, indeed, sound lovely. I hope their seeker finds them and they can all live happily ever after.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Quite an achievement to make us laugh at the moment, but you did it. Thanks for the great post. Also like the comment from one of your readers: ‘Is anyone trying to make Britain great again?’ Think that’s what Brexit’s about. ‘Great England’, anyone?

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Am I right in thinking that it is only barristers that wear wigs as they are only required in some courts and they are courts that solicitors can’t appear in?
    I do like the idea of a single traveling wig with all the answers, it makes me think of the Harry Potter sorting hat.
    Could this be the real reason for the somewhat odd hairstyle of the new POTUS? Does he have an answer wig, but he got the one that gives the *wrong* answers? It would make the sign from the recent Manchester protests, “We shall overcomb” even more delicious.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. I have to hand it to the enterprising soul that lugged a bit of the Roman wall to his house for the express purpose of erecting a backyard fence. That is truly something you don’t see everyday. Actually, on a lighter note, maybe you can tell me the gossip over there for who will be the next Doctor Who? Fun post, Ellen!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The kid and I enjoyed this! We have a silly sense of humour. I used to entertain the kids with it for an hour at a time at railway stations when my son would make us miss the train again.

    Years later he didn’t remember some important things, like say, don’t beat up your sister, but could sing all the verses of “I am a chicken in a cheesecake, don’t you know you stupid fool?”

    Liked by 1 person

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