Sunday, February 26, 2006

My very British weekend

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Even as I write to you dear friends, I am shaking off the effects of my weekend. No matter how long I live here, no matter how much of the lingo I pick up (yes, I am now saying 'rubbish bin' and 'bollocks'), I will never be able to drink with the British. And trust me, I've tried.

Friday night saw me and the Boy at VBF and partner's place for dinner. Vegetarian Thai green curry with coconut rice, sorbet and ice cream for pudding, followed by cheese and crackers. Very civilised of us, don't you think? We were told that we didn't have to bring anything, just ourselves. The Boy was dubious about this claim -- what go over to someone's house without drink? So I said he could buy a bottle of NICE wine, no beer. He buys two.

Saturday night, we went to another pal's housewarming party, a girl from the team. I wasn't really recovered from the night before and the volleyball, so I decided to stay clear of the alcohol. However, another pal (forever to be known as the Fraulein) convinced me to pour some vodka in my Coke. I also engaged in scelping the Buckie with my team mates. The rest, they say, is history.

Today was a complete wash-out. I couldn't be arsed to do anything. I just don't know how the British and Irish do it. I mean, I had two, maybe three glasses of wine Friday night. My play on Saturday was really rubbish. My reactions were slow, my sets poor, my mind slightly fuzzy overall not a good game. There were girls playing that had got pissed the night before, playing the next day.

You really have to understand something about the British and drink: it really is in their culture. Even as I say that, I have a hard time understanding. This is because most Americans do not have drink as a part of their culture in the same way. A lot of people drink as something young people do, mostly at university or maybe something a little deviant. You certainly won't do it as hard as you did then, if you did. You probably wouldn't think getting dolled up for a night at your local pub, at aged 37. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. You probably wouldn't think of taking your entire family to the pub -- mum, dad, gran. And getting pissed with them. You would here.

This does tread the slippery slope of alcoholism, agreed, but it's more complex than that. The best way I can think to explain British drink culture to Americans is to think of the Brits' relationship with drink like our relationship with food. It's used as an excuse for a social gathering. It's comforting. Americans pig out; British get drunk -- the number of pubs here has to be equal to the number of all-you-can-eat places in the States. Drinking and overeating are terrible for you and we both can't stop. Most Americans accept the right people have to overeat, not exercise and being morbidly obese, and this is the case with Britons, but with drink. Look, think of any way that Americans use food. Interchange the word 'food' for 'alcohol' and essentially, you've got life in Britain.

Ironically, Boy drank a lot more back in the States. He had a lot of pals there and they went to the pub on Wednesdays. He always struggled on Thursday, thought to be because of being out late the night before. One Wednesday, he didn't go to the pub. He remarked the next day, amazed, at how well he felt, how the day wasn't a struggle. How do the British drink like this day in and day out? British productivity would sky rocket if people gave up drink. They probably would have never lost their empire.

Learn to talk British!

Couldn't be arsed - couldn't be bothered (not be used in formal situations)
Teetotaller - one who does not drink (though I think we might have this word in the US)
Scelping the Buckie - a two parter; see pictorial examples above:
  • scelping - chugging; drinking quickly (might be spelled skelping)
  • Buckie - informal name for Buckfast, a 'tonic' wine made by monks (although on the label it says that the use of the word tonic does not denote that it has any medicinal or healing qualities - what exactly does tonic mean then?); closely liked to Mad Dog beer in its utter skaniness and preference with those wanting to get drunk quickly and cheaply and with whinos


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