Saturday, 27 July 2013

Weather you like it or not

Chéri, did you see my flip flop?

After a 9-month long autumn accompanied by exactly 9 months of endless complaints about the miserable weather you would expect the British to welcome above average temperatures with a smile and a sigh of relief. You should know better. 

Complaining is a national sport here. I did not say that. And the weather and its variations is by far the favourite topic of discussion in the British culture. It is an handy subject to revert to after someone foolishly replied to a carelessly thrown "you alright?" and actually stopped to chat and know how well you are doing today (when will the Continentals learn...).

The (pre-Eurostar) secluded Island is blessed with long periods of rain. And it does not take months of intense British integration (here is your crumpet, dear) to understand that the British Subject is above all fond of complaining about the weather.

June was to be forgotten as the most miserable month of autumn. Countless blogs posts have been written about this. Islanders in their misery were sharing counts of endless summers spent running in the woods when they were younger, which could fool any Southeners living below the river Loire but not a Norman.

Summer is a rare commodity here and I was prepared for the worse, even looking into buying my first pair of wellies. "I gave up, there won't be  summers any more in this country," a source close to the matter said.

But miracles do still happen, and we should never underestimate the power of greenhouse gas. July brought us Summer, a real Summer. At first people smiled, happy again do dig out their flip flops and too soon forgotten shorts. But the joy was short-lived and made space to more complaining. Done with the rain, British Subjects turned their anger to the sun and the heat.

"Bring on the Autumn," I heard. "I had enough of Summer now," said another one. "I can't sleep in this heat, I would rather have the rain," added a sun burned man. Why oh why, I ask you? They know, don't they, that this weather is not here to stay.

"Well, we are not used to this kind of heat, we are mild weather people," I was told. Yet some won't hesitate to offer their un-sunscreened body to the midday sun, in the unique purpose to proudly show off their purple-red marks afterwards and complain (again) about the pain.

The weird thing is that this month of July will join the ranks of the beautiful legendary summers which paved the childhood of our British complainers. Parents will talk about July 2013 with stars in their eyes, and children will fall asleep with a smile on their faces hoping this could happen again. 

Oh well, as long as Summer stays as it is, I say bring on the complaints. Is this rain I hear outside?

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

The answer my friend...

Can I have a Rosetta stone to take away, please?

I still feel I need a sort of the Rosetta stone to interact in a fluidier fashion with my British cousins. After almost two years spent on the wet compost of la perfide Albion, there is something I am still not able to handle.  Let me explain.

When I bump into someone, more precisely an English person, whom I don't know very well but enough to stop for 5 seconds and politely say "hi, how are you?", I am often left bewildered and irritated.

Why? Because I simply say "hi, how are you?" and the person answers "Hi, you alright there" and as I say "yes and you?", this person says "I am fine thank you" and starts to ask me "what are you up to these days?" or "how was your weekend?" and I start to answer because I don't want to appear rude but, guess what, that person is already gone. Gone. Gone!

Why bother to wait for the answer to a question you asked after all? And here I am, promising myself this will never happen again but guess what? It's like a pavlovian reflex, there is nothing I can do about it. Something I say triggers the question that shall never be answered. What is it?

Usually, when I stop to say "hi, how are you?", I literally only say those words because that is all you can say in 5 seconds. In these kind of polite exchanges, both people go back to their normal life in a matter of seconds with the satisfaction to have said "hello" to someone you hardly know.

Sometimes I even reply "I am fine and you?" before the question and that's fine. It makes things shorter, it's quite handy when you are in a hurry but don't want to compromise with the etiquette.

Think in terms of 'frenchpeopleness' here, for us being polite is a lifelong inner fight with our deeply encrusted rude wildboar-eater-barbarians' instincts. In short, this is a great achievement.

Since I reached the other side of the Channel, these 5 seconds of satisfaction turned into 40 seconds of frustration. Alas, the answer is not to be found in an another Rosetta stone but forever blowing in the wind.