Some things are just so ingrained into the British way of life that it really wouldn’t be stretching any sort of imagination to think they’re actually part of our genetic make up.
For example, 99% of people in possession of a British passport seem unable to enter a kitchen without immediately switching the kettle on – regardless of whether they fancy a cup of tea or not. It’s a scientific fact you know, with research and pie charts and everything. At a guess, I’d say 20 seconds is the average time it takes from door to sink, followed by a frantic hunt for the last cup you used and put down somewhere. It’s often in the microwave, having been re-heated twice and still left half full. Or half empty, depending on what sort of person you are.
Yes, we British certainly do love the dried, leafy stuff – whether it be the black, white, green or sugared variety, or those rather rancid concoctions laced with plant extract and smelling like air freshener. In fact, we love it so much we get through 165,000,000 cups a day. That’s an estimate for the entire population by the way. For one person to try to drink that much would just be plain silly. And expensive. And incredibly time-consuming. You’d need to plug the kettle in by the loo and then drink them back-to-back around the clock.
The ‘other’ drink that requires the use of a kettle – or a conveniently located Starbucks, Costa, Cafe Nero or McCafe – comes straggling in behind on the ‘consumption counter’ at only a paltry 70 million cups per day. I reckon that’s partially to do with the sheer volume of choice and all those ridiculous names they have. The average person in search of a cup of basic ground bean is generally unwilling to sidle to the front of a queue and ask for a ‘Venti Grande Skinny Chai Latté With An Extra Shot Of Double Strength Mocha Espresso’, or whatever it is that some Americans seem to drink – no offence intended.
Of course when I say ‘conveniently located Starbucks’, I am aware of the irony of such a phrase. With over 16,858 stores in 50 countries, (including over 700 in the UK) there’s no longer such a thing as an inconveniently located Starbucks – what with their ‘Expansions Team’ on a continuous mission to fill up every available square inch of empty high street, shopping mall and green belt across the land. Their global domination is even more impressive when you consider that their coffee is rated the worst of the lot – including the stuff they pump out at the birth place of the Happy Meal and the Big Muck.
Not to digress even further and turn this into a totally Starbuck themed blog, but surely you’d think that with their primary product – namely coffee – being so poorly regarded, they’d think twice about paying stupid money to change their already recognisable branding (yet again) and drop the word ‘coffee’ from the logo?
And that’s beside the idea some numpty in management has had to do away with those nice big chunky mugs, which are, let’s be honest, the only real reason many of us go there in the first place. Well aside from the whipped cream and the free WiFi… and the rather moorish cinnamon swirl.
Anyway, moving swiftly away from those corporate coffee giants with no common sense and getting back to what I was initially talking about. Which was, oh yes, being British.
Moaning about the weather is also woven into our DNA, along with our ability to come over all shocked and every so slightly offended as it once again pees down with rain all summer, starts to get cold in the Autumn and freezes over in the winter.
You’d think as a nation of welly wearers with pale skin and permanently frizzy hair, we’d all be rather used to this weather pattern by now. But no. We all work ourselves up into a right lather, muttering under our breath every time we open the curtains and fervently digging out records since time began – just so that we can once again prove that we really have just experienced the wettest, driest, hottest, muggiest, windiest, coldest month ever. And that’s just in July.
Actually if we can’t have paper proof from the Met Office that we’re experiencing the worst weather since the first atoms exploded, or the dinosaurs discovered a Starbucks, conveniently located at the mouth of a prehistoric cave, then for some strange reason we feel positively short-changed.
So, to all those British people out there who love to moan about the rain and waste countless hours believing that every other country in the world has better weather than we do – please don’t.
I’ve been around a bit (in the traveling sense of the world) and seen enough climates to realise that not only is our weather not that bad in the grand scheme of things, it also isn’t the be-all and end-all of life.
Take the Middle East for instance. Living in Bahrain, I remember the summers being hot enough to cook your organs through your skin. I’d sprint from an air-conditioned flat to an air-conditioned car to an air-conditioned office. My sunglasses were always running with condensation, the steering wheel burnt my palms and I could never put the roof down on my convertible for fear of heat stroke. OK, so no sympathy on that one I’m sure!
The time spent laying by the pool, bobbing around on beautiful boats and risking my neck on dangerously fast jet skis did help to make up for the heat, but you get my drift. Oh yes, and in the winter months it also got very cold, very wet and very windy.
In Singapore it certainly never got cold, but then again it never got anything other than humid. And humidity, as anyone with a pair of hair straighteners will know, is a living bloody nightmare when it comes to taming a frizzy mane.
And if you’ve ever wondered why Singapore is a nation of compulsive shoppers, it’s all to do with the heat. The malls, as well as being massive and stuffed full of great shops, are kept at roughly the same temperature as a fridge. So all in all it’s cheaper to spend 5-hours a day browsing through stuff you’ll never buy, than it is to stay home and run your own AC.
And then there’s Perth. Good old sunny Perth with its constant blue skies, sandy beaches and a climate so perfect everyone and their brother, cousin and mother-in-law wants to live there. Or so the Tourist Board tells you to draw you in.
Had I had any idea how cold I would have been for the 3 winters I spent down there, I would have taken more decent jumpers and some tog rated socks with me, not sold all my thick fleeces on Ebay before I left. The lack of any proper insulation, double glazing or central heating meant that I often went to bed wearing half the contents of my wardrobe, with a portable radiator by my pillow and icicles forming from my nose. Highly unattractive and not terribly conducive to any form of martial nocturnal activity.
The summer was always a relief when it arrived. Or rather it was until the temperatures really kicked in and took off, and then it became impossible to go anywhere between the hours of 9 and 4. Every time I took my son to the playground he’d complain his head was cooking like a sausage and asked me to take him home. Having a pool helped a bit, but by the time we’d dragged off the cover, fished out the red backs and plastered up in sun cream, all energy and motivation was gone – along with all that sun cream, 5 minutes after hitting the water.
So finally, after chasing the sun all around the world and declaring loudly that I simply can not deal with the miserable English weather anymore, I’ve finally come to realise a few things. As I mentioned before, the UK isn’t that bad in the grand scheme of things and getting a higher percentage of sunny days really isn’t the be-all and end-all of life.
Finding a decent cup of (green) tea on the other hand… That’s far more important and a whole different kettle of fish.