Fish and Chips

english fish and chipsEngland’s favourite takeaway dish for a long period of time, fish and chips has always been a typical English food. All English communities, especially the working class, have found themselves in love with fish and chips as it provides them with tasty and healthy sustenance after long working days.

Central to the fish and chips is of course the good old fish and chip shop. They arrived for the first time in Northern England though I don’t remember exactly when. Today there are thousands and thousands of fish and chip shops all over England, making it probably the most popular food dishes loved by everyone, both the English and foreigners alike.

In addition to this, fish and chips have also become incredibly fashionable at many of the top restaurants in England and a handful of celebrity chefs have made no secret of their love for this fantastic English food tradition.

Wherever you travel in England, you tend to find that cod, haddock and plaice are by far the most popular fish. However, certain regional variations are also quite popular with whiting in the Midlands and skate seen everywhere in the south of the nation. More exotic varieties of fish such as hoki, red snapper, and even small shark can also be found now on menus.

In England health conscience is important and for this reason the tradition of deep-frying has been regarded as a rather unhealthy option, and even strains on haddock and cod stocks in the sea mean the fish and chip shops might soon need to bring in other types of fish.

Despite such difficulties, it would be inconceivable to see our cooking selection without fish and chips, and the traditional English dish has certainly found favour amongst a lot of overseas visitors.

To be perfectly honest with you, I reckon there is nothing more typically English than walking along the beautiful seafront taking in the nice view and eating fish and chips out of newspaper. And even though on a whole English food might not be the best in the world, fish and chips is surely something that can do justice for English food.

Though I come from a country famous for nice food, I have to admit that I did fall in love with England thanks to fish and chips when I first visited the country. Now that I am back home, I miss them nearly everyday, and as a result the first thing I will definitely do when I go back to England is pop into the nearest chippy.

Fish and chips is definitely an English icon. It would be a surprise if you can find this elsewhere in the world. Even in my hometown Bangkok, when the first and most well-known fish and chips shop in town was opened, they even failed to include curry sauce on the menu! The newspaper print was also photocopied which was bizarre.

I haven’t travelled much but to the best of my knowledge such a thing doesn’t exist elsewhere even in America it’s just French-fries. Everyone just knows that fish and chips is a true English food without a shadow of a doubt.

The Prime Minister

The current Prime Minister is Tony Blair, the leader of the New Labour Party. The Labour Party won an overall majority of ‘seats’ in the last two General Elections.

Tony Blair lives at 10 Downing Street, the traditional and official residence of the Prime Minister, in London. The House has seen many a famous minister come and go.

His job is to be the top man of government. He does various important things such as appoint ministers to the positions of power over various particular departments. These are often referred to as ‘Secretaries of State’ and are in charge of departments known singularly as a ‘Ministry’. These ministers are responsible for their department and everything that happens within it.

Born in 1953, Tony Charles Lynton Blair (his full name) studied law at Oxford and eventually became a barrister.

He has been noted for his quick ascent of the political mountain – despite failing early on to succeed in a by-election. He is married to the long-suffering (so called thanks to the amount of negative media attention she has previously received) Cherie Booth who is also a Barrister. Together they have four children and have done a fairly good job of keeping them out of the political limelight.Tony Blair has a certain charisma that is hard to deny. Some might call it a ‘charm’ and others more negatively claim he is simply good at ‘the act’ of seeming thoughtful. If it is an act, he is a very good actor. One gets the feeling he is in the job for reasons that perhaps go beyond the desire for fame and power, and his position as a ‘moral christian’ is one the party have been keen to show enough of to impress.He manages not to let his religion get ‘in the way’ of his politics, which is not something that can be said for our friend Mr. Bush in the White House, for good or ill.

Secretaries of State?

The Foreign Secretary – This minister deals with matters relating to international issues such as dealings with other countries and other diplomatic arrangements.

The Home Secretary – As you may have guessed, the home Secretary deals with domestic, internal affairs. Matters of government and of the country itself.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer – The head financial secretary, responsible for numbers and money.

The Lord Chancellor – Head minister for matters that are legal and law related. He is particularly interested in the legal system and keeping tabs on its operation and execution.

For Education – Minister in charge of education, matters relating to schools, adult education and other such issues. For Transport and Environment – Previously seen as a less crucial role, this minister has a hard job dealing with the governments stance on transport issues and ever increasingly, with the environment.

In England we have a popular term; “Do’s and Dont’s”. This basically means a list of things one should or should not do in a given situation. Here is a fun list of things to consider when in England or dealing with English people!

Do pay as you consume – Pay for drinks as you order them at bars and pubs! This is not necessary in restaurants, but is vital in anywhere more informal such as a pub or club bar.

Do say ‘Excuse me’ – If someone gets in your way or you accidentally bump into someone this little phrase will instantly diffuse any worry and will usually get you a smile! It’s also a good way to make someone get out of your way.

Do wait in line – A very particular thing in England is forming queues (a line of people waiting for something). For example, you want to buy something in a shop, but there are four other people who want to buy something too.

The first person there stands next in line for the till to pay, and everyone else waits patiently behind them. When it is your turn, you get to pay, but after the other people who were there before you. If you go before someone who was waiting for longer than you, then you risk annoying some English people!Do say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ – It is considered good manners (polite) to say these words frequently. We say ‘thank you’ alot in England, whenever someone does something for you, even something very small. It is hard to say it too much, but if you say it too little people will notice and might get offended!Do put your hand over your mouth – If you yawn or cough, always put your hand over your mouth so that nobody can see your tongue and teeth. English people consider people who yawn without covering their mouth to be very rude!

Do say ‘Sorry!’ – This is perhaps the most important word in the English language! If you do something that might offend or inconvenience another, say ‘sorry’.

English people say sorry even when they haven’t done anything wrong – for example if you bump into someone, you should say ‘sorry!’ to apologise, but they will often say ‘sorry!’ to you too, even though it was your fault. This is a very English custom.

Do smile! – If you smile, people will smile at you too. Usually.

Do shake hands – when you meet someone for the first time, shake their right hand with your right hand. Not your left! Some people believe that if you shake with your left hand, you are saying ‘Hello, I am homosexual!’ and for many people it is just odd. Right hand only even if you are gay!

Do drive on the left hand side of the road!

Are you getting worried about making mistakes yet? Don’t worry! With practice all these things become normal.

English Accents

english accentsThere is a general perception that everyone in England speaks with a plummy English accent. This is not true. In England, there are a wide range of accents that have developed and lived on for a long period of time. Foreigners may have difficulty understanding all these different accents.

In England, the main accent groupings are between the south and the north. The dividing line is believed to start from Shrewsbury to Birmingham and to the Wash. The prestige or posh English accent is known as Received Pronunciation (RP) that is thought to have its roots in the educated language of south-eastern England. It’s more commonly known as the Southern English accent.

The accent spoken in the east end of London is called Cockney. The London accent is quite widespread in many parts in Southern England too. The West Country, particularly Bristol, has a very distinctive pronunciation. This also applies to other rural areas like parts of East Anglia. When you go up north you will find that, the West Midlands, especially Birmingham, has a rather different accent of its own. The Birmingham accent is among the most difficult accents to understand according to many people from other parts of England.

Liverpool also has a unique accent of its own which is called the Scouse accent. Many believe that Liverpool has traces of the Irish accent. Other parts of the country that have distinctively different accents are Manchester (Mancunian), Leeds, Sheffield, and particularly Newcastle (Geordie), just to name a few.

I’ve heard that it could be possible to identify the city or town that someone comes from based on their accent. Some say that accents will gradually start disappearing when people travel more and more. It’s still a bit of a surprise that they have lasted this long considering.

Now if I am to tell which accent I like best, personally I would have to say that the more eductated someone is, the more pleasant and comprehensible their accent sounds to me. I also tend to find it more difficult to understand people if they live further away from London. Certain accents which are quite difficult for me to understand include the Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Scottish accents. Basically, the more northern, the more difficult it becomes.

This can be quite surprising, but the Queen’s English is not as commonly spoken as thought. When someone is heard speaking like this, there can frequently be uncalled prejudice against them as being too filthy rich, posh or basically snobbish.

I’ve myself come across very few people who speak the Queen’s English. I’ve also noticed that recently many news channels are now using broadcasters who speak English with regional accents. For instance, on BBC news I have heard quite a few regional accents where in the past it was dominated by the Queen’s English only. As far as I’m concerned, the BBC probably knows that they have attracted more viewers just by including the news presenters viewers from many parts of the country can relate to. England is truly a nation divided by the common language.

Chavs

english chavs and chav cultureOver the past few years, there has been a new culture in England which is fast becoming a widespread epidemic. Everywhere you go in England you’ll see Chavs. They normally hang around their favourite “Maccy D” (MacDonalds) outlet, off licence waiting to nick free booze or just the streets where they try at every opportunity to vandalise property, drink cheap Stella, verbally abuse passers by and terrorise the elderly.

Chavs have a distinct dress code. Fake designer labels are a must. The male chav will normally wear a hooded top to conceal his panicky face, loose tracksuits, white trainers, and most importantly a Burberry baseball cap.

The female Chav or ‘Chavette’ will scrape all her hair up into a tight ponytail on the back of her head, also known as ‘Croydon facelift’. She will tend to wear a dark blue trackie with white stripes, a big puffa jacket, a dozen hoop earrings, and also white trainers. Chavettes are not allowed to wear socks, and all Chavs are required to wear as much fake jewellery as they possibly can. Mobile phones are an extra status symbol, and when they are equipped, the Chav must shout into it in an extremely anti-social fashion.

Typically, Chavs speak a unique language which is virtually incomprehensible to non-Chavs. It’s thought to have its roots in English though most people are not quite certain. Chavs tend to use pitifully brief words, and their sentences are always punctuated with ‘innit’. Obviously, very few ordinary people will be able to understand the language, making a conversation with Chavs pointless.

Smoking is often seen as Chav’s favourite pastime which makes them spit and cough every 15 seconds. They love drinking alcohol, usually cheap lager or cider that’s been nicked from their local off licence. This gives them a wrong impression that they are tough and as such they will try to start a fight with anyone much smaller or weaker than them. However, any sort of retaliation by their victim often leads to them running away.

Much to the surprise of everyone, Chavs can be found in education too. Again, they tend to survive in packs and haven’t got much to offer but howl and bray in the classroom, so that other people will never be able to learn stuff. Fortunately enough for most people, however, Chavs tend to leave school before the age of sixteen whether voluntarily or not in order to pursue early parenthood or in many cases a life of crime.

It is no surprise that Chavs are responsible for the high growth rate in street crime that England has seen over the last few years. The country has been diagnosed with the ‘Chav’ cancer and as such many professionals have been working hard to find a cure. Unfortunately though, all present cures are still considered illegal in this free country.

If you happen see a young lad aged 12-30 dressed like an old woman’s shopping trolley, you are said to have witnessed a Chav. In this unpleasant situation, you are permitted by general consensus to find the nearest possible firearm and forcefully descend upon the said Chav without hesitation.

queen no longer on stampsStamps for the sending of letters and parcels can now be purchased online, whereupon the stamp enthusiast will quickly notice that they lack the graceful portrait of our dear Queen.

A tradition dating back one hundred and sixty years, the Monarch’s head on our stamps is something particularly English. Indeed, we started the craze off in 1840 as the first country to put the royal visage on our letters.

These so called ‘net stamps’ pay homage to a rather more peculiar authority – the barcode. Practical, no doubt, but somehow that little bit less poetic.

A Police State?

a police state in england with talking cctv camerasCCTV cameras have been installed in Middlesbrough that not only record and monitor you in public but can now talk at you too.

The new speaker system has been installed to allow camera operators to berate members of the public when they misbehave, using such tried and tested phrases as:

“Would the gentleman with no trousers on please leave the middle of the road.” and “Warning: You are drinking that can of stella in an alcohol-free zone.”

The camera operators are live and simply need to press a switch to announce your behaviour to the entire street. The scheme is deliberately attempting to shame people into behaving.

The mayor of the town instigated the scheme – any guesses what his previous profession was? Yup – policing.

Apparantly, Middlesbrough like the new speakers: “Put it this way, we never have requests to remove them.”

Perhaps the most amusing part of all this is the script to which the camera operators much stick. If the ‘criminal’ obeys the warning or order that is sent to them from the camera, the operator will add a pleasant “Thank you” to bring the ‘conversation’ to a close:

“We always make the requests polite, and if the offender obeys, the operator adds ‘thank you’. We think that’s a nice finishing touch.”

Those of you who are already thinking of Orwell will be pleased to know that, while infringing on our liberties, they are at least doing so with the utmost in good manners.

suicide thanks to the internetThe BBC reports that a youngster of eighteen killed himself after viewing ‘pro-suicide’ websites on the internet.

While it is understandable that the parents would be looking for someone other than themselves to blame for their son’s decision to kill himself, it is hardly logical to blame the internet. There are several things wrong with such a claim:

1) The assumption that the internet is a cohesive whole that could, in itself, hold responsibility for the way it is used. An analogy could be used with a hammer. Workmen might blame the hammer when they hit their own thumb, but who is going to accept their reasoning? The internet, similarly, is a tool. It doesn’t kill people.

2) That websites discussing suicide are a bad thing. The parents and the media were quick to label these sites as, in their words, ‘pro suicide’ sites. I’ve seen many of these types of sites, and while there undoubtably are some sites that encourage people to kill themselves, these are vastly outnumbered by the sites which do the exact opposite and are typically always obviously comic in the black humour sense or otherwise obviously not to be taken seriously. The parents are now campaigning (again, I understand why they want to do this, but do not therefore need to consider it a rational thing to be doing) to affect policy that dictates the policing of websites, in an attempt to quash websites that allow the discussion of suicide. This is a really bad idea – need I point out why?

3) They assumed that the internet gave him the means to committ suicide. This is an impossible assumption to make. People have been killing themselves for thousands of years, so right away we can rule out the idea that such websites are amain cause of suicide. We can also examine where he lived – a house – and find numerous other easy ways that he could have figured out how to kill himself without ever going near a computer. There is electricity, water, rope, high places, sharp things, drugs, and if he really was stumped, his local library. Why aren’t we blaming libraries? Does the credence lent to a book by virtue of having been published necessarily allow it escape from such criticism? Im sure we could find plenty of suicides which were undertaken by people who had recently borrowed books from libraries on the subject.

4) The insulting assumption that their 18 year old, university student son was ‘groomed for suicide’ coupled with mind blowing analogies to paedophiles grooming children for sex online:

“It is illegal to groom a child for sex, but not to kill themselves. That seems wrong. What we need is for the government to make it illegal.

The report makes no mention of any particular individual involved in encouraging the man to kill himself.

I am not necessarily an apologist for the internet, but I do feel the need to react to such obviously misguided thinking. The parents are upset and can be entirely forgiven – the BBC however, should probably know better.

A recent study has revealed that young people in England are among the worst behaved in Europe. The study was based on a range of indicators, including drink, drugs and violence. It is also found that as many as 50% of antisocial behaviour orders are now breached and many unruly teens even regard them as a badge of honours.

Based on my experience, the gangs of teenagers in England that I have encountered have been extremely aggressive, threatening and they also seem to hate everyone they see and are keen to provoke a fight. One of my friends was once beaten up by a gang of South London chavs simply because he was speaking another language to his friend on the phone. He was absolutely gutted as he never expected himself to fall victim of teenage violence.

According to one unruly teenage friend of mine, there is a disturbing insistence about their exclusive rights and a bullying behaviour in that anyone they don’t like the look of must then be a target. You just feel that you are likely to be beaten up or even knifed as has happened many times recently for daring to cross these provocative youngsters. I agree that not all teenagers are the same but my own experience and observation has not been very pleasant.

I also have to say that it is not a surprise that ASBOs are now being seen as a badge of honour amongst ferocious English youth. I reckon if they were ever taught about the concept of other people’s rights that might just help otherwise though I’m afraid to say it’s never going to be easy to succeed in tackling this particular issue.

My friend says that part of the problem is the fact that English society is fast becoming unbalanced. Those who would work hard to raise children in a relatively responsible manner are now increasingly wondering if they can afford to do so because the government tries at every opportunity to take ever more of their incomes to fund their grand schemes of massive social engineering.

On the other hand, there are also an increasing number of people who neither care nor work but instead expect the state to provide everything from free housing to social benefits because apparently they are victims of an exclusive world in which they never want to join or couldn’t care less about.

To a certain extent, however, we also have to admit young people in England are largely what we have made of them. We have created a culture where people don’t feel obliged to take responsibility for their actions anymore which is an absolute disgrace. The media also help make things worse by glorifying macho behaviour and violence which is a hindrance rather than a help.

I reckon that demonising young people is hardly going to help. We should all take our responsibility to lead the next generation and beyond. To be fair, a large percentage of young people now lack the discipline, security, sound values enjoyed in the past and if we really want to tackle the problem the first and best place to start is of course family.