Date: 19 December 2015.
Location: Betty's Tea Rooms, Harrogate, Yorkshire. Apparently taking tea here is a must-do, just like the Pookie & Grumps brownies yesterday in Leeds came with the, 'ohh, but you just have to try these!'. No one in Yorkshire is particularly svelte.
If I hadn't been a lawyer it's likely I would have been a scientist, maybe a geneticist. Or, perhaps, I'm thinking now, an anthropologist. I find people — and all our weirdness — absolutely fascinating. I continue my study of the English race and today bring you my list of Weird Things I've Discovered That Brits Love:
- All carb meals. Baked potato with beans; crumpets; roast beef with baked carrots, mashed-potato and Yorkshire pudding — all washed down with a pint.
- Queuing. It's no joke, guys. They love it.
- Tea. The northerners are particularly tea-fiendish. Here the tea tray is a real thing. Whenever one employee gets up to make a cuppa they offer one all around, often tottering back to the cluster of desks laden with steaming mugs on a tray. Adorable.
- Solar panels. Come on, England. Who are we kidding?
- Christmas 'grottos'. The only other context in which I'm accustomed to hearing about grottos is the Playboy mansion and often in the same sentence as 'topless bunnies' or 'orgy' — so it makes me snicker into my fluffy scarf (immaturely, granted) every time I see a sign at a Christmas market tempting kids to 'Santa's grotto'. Naughty Santa.
- The royals, obviously.
- Ales. But also lagers. My beer education has stepped up.
- Sherry. I get it. It's delicious and, even better, it seems to not at all be taken seriously as alcohol — it's like Canada, seen as harmless and cheerful and always welcome — so you're allowed to drink it anywhere anytime.
- Drinking anywhere any time. For example, it's universally acknowledged a person on a train is in want of a wine. When Paris and I bought a bottle of prosecco at the M&S at St Pancras the cashier offered us two plastic cups. That is service.
- Instant coffee. Or, at least, it's not utterly reviled in the way it is in Australia. No Melbournian worth her all-black ensemble would serve instant to a guest without first pausing, awkwardly, and explains apologetically, “It's instant. Is that… Okay?”
- Christmas. The Christmas lights went up in Oxford St a month ago and suddenly there was mulled wine around every corner, a Christmas market in every English village and there was a shift in our most used phrases to include, 'Oh go on then, I'll have another — since it's the holidays', 'Well alright, eff it, because it's Christmas I will,' and 'May as well then. It's the time of the year for it!'