6 Things I Like About England

I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog bitching about the UK so I thought I would try to show that I’m not ALWAYS so miserable. Here are 6 good things about England:

1. Organic milk and egg deliveries – this one is important to me because I have three small children and always run out of milk and eggs. It is wonderfully convenient and we have a very friendly milkman that I imagine used to happen in the States in the 50s. When I was living in New York and San Fran, you could get your food delivered but I don’t think there were milkmen like there are here. It’s just really nice to have that delicious, fresh-off-the-farm milk with that thick cream on top delivered to your door in old-fashioned milk bottles. I love it!

2. Eurostar to Paris – OK, so maybe this is more about Paris than London or England but it is fabulous to be in London at 10am and then Paris at noon. Not only that but I’m about 2 hours from most of Europe which is great for wonderful weekend breaks. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to take as much advantage of that in the last 3 years but that’s going to change now that the twins are just turning 2! Paris, here we come!

3. Public footpaths – In England walking/hiking is one of the most popular past times. Anywhere you go in the country, you will see signs on fields that say “public footpaths”. This means you are allowed to cross through privately owned farms and fields along the marked footpaths. So you could walk through a field of sheep or cows with no worries of being ‘shot for trespassing’ as in the US. I think that’s nice. And most people are quite respectful and make sure to close the gates and not litter. It makes for beautiful, long walks through rolling hills of fields and forests.

4.  Free healthcare for kids – normally I am not a fan of the NHS (National Health Service) but there are a couple of components that I think are great with regards to kids.  If your child has a serious illness I feel it would be MUCH better to have him/her treated in the US.  However, there are three things that they do well:  free prescriptions, free inoculations and monitoring, and free dentist care.  Anytime you need to get antibiotics or any other kind of prescription (including the expensive lactose-free prescription formula that I used for the twins for a year) it is free and easy to pickup.  I think that is very helpful and great for the poorest families.  The NHS also monitors your baby’s age and as he/she reaches certain months, they tell you when to go in for an immunization which you can do quickly and easily and of course without cost.  This is especially helpful when your child is 3 or 4 years old and it’s been a while since the last immunization and you are more prone to forget.  I also think that’s good for society as a whole, making sure all children are kept free of the worst diseases.  (I’m not sure how it’s done in America but I don’t think it is this organized).  And finally, the free dentist care.  The best part of this is that you don’t have to go to special NHS dentists which may be hard to find.  I go to a private dentist who is quite good and every time I bring Will for a checkup, it’s free.  I love that!  Should be especially useful when the big teeth come in and he starts getting cavities.

5.  Black cabs – In London, the cabbies drive what is known as black cabs.  They are wonderful taxis for several reasons.  First and foremost, they are spacious enough so you can roll your stroller right into the back and you don’t have to carry a car seat with you at all times.  It is so convenient especially when you have twins in a double stroller.  I can’t imagine what I would do if I lived in NYC.  Second, the cabbies are all quite friendly and extremely knowledgeable of London streets.  Unlike many New York taxis who might even ask you where Bleecker Street is, London cabbies know EVERY single street no matter how small and also know the quickest way there at various times of day.  It is quite impressive.  The test to become a cabbie is very competitive and involves a detailed test of London streets called “The Knowledge” which requires about 2 years of roaming the streets with a moped so you can learn everything.  Well done, London!  By the way, a survey just came out that listed London black cabs as the friendliest and best cabs in the world.  Guess who was last…..Parisian cabs!   Black cabs beat yellow taxis to be named best in the world | Mail Online.

6.  Pub culture – Pubs are truly a wonderful establishment.  People who don’t live in England might not understand the difference between a pub and a bar.  First of all, good pubs generally welcome patrons of any age, be it a 90-year-old grandmother or a 6 month old baby.  It’s great to see three generations of a family enjoying each other’s company on a regular basis.  Certainly there is drinking here but it’s not only about getting alcohol.  It’s a place to sit down, have a beer (or not) with friends and family, order some nice hearty food and enjoy a lively ambiance.  My husband and I use pubs as a family outing regularly.  Our local pub has a lovely enclosed garden where the kids can run wild while we enjoy a pint in the sunshine and order chips for the kids.  And there is no one rushing you out — you could sit there all day if you wanted to.

It’s a short list but these are really nice things.  I am sure that there are probably more things I like but I just can’t think of them right now.  🙂

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The 12 Things I Hate About England

In honor of Christmas, I have put together a list of the 12 Things I Hate About England. Sorry, but it had to be done.  There is just too much that is irritating me now and I just have to vent!  Warning:  some inappropriate language.

12.  Slutty fashion worn by unfit or older women

I know you see this in America as well, but I find it pervasive here.  The majority of women aged 16 to 60 wear slutty, tight, too small, cheap, shiny clothes that do NOT flatter them in the least.  They complement this memorable clothing with stripper heels that are minimally 5 inches high.  What are they thinking?  I cannot understand how the rolls of fat pushing out from under their too short, too tight tops escape their eye when they look in a mirror.  It is especially offensive when you see a 45-year-old woman dressed like this — come on, you just look like an aging hooker!  My mind cannot comprehend this at all (and I do like sexy clothing — I’m not a puritan in my dress).

11.  Packaging

This seems odd but it really is starting to irritate me.  First of all, there is way too much packaging on simple things like fruit or veggies in the supermarkets.  Secondly, for food products that require good packaging like rice or couscous or something else that is small and hard to contain they make it impossible to open the package without tearing the damn thing and then there is no effective way to keep it closed and fresh.  When you buy as many groceries as I do, you are constantly opening and closing little packages (because they don’t seem to do much bulk food here).  I’m so tired of pulling out stale crackers or loose nuts in my cupboards.

10.  Anti-Americanism

Everyone knows that France is always bitching about America but surprisingly so does the U.K.  I’m tired of always hearing America being the butt of nasty jokes.  The English think we are all the same and that we’re gun-toting, southern sounding, ignorant folk who have no manners.  Get real!  I could go on and on about the ignorance of the Cockney sounding Brits around here.  They make fun of our business philosophy, our police, our politics, our education, our wealth, our aggressiveness and the size of our country and the people (by the way, I find the English talking about fat Americans like the pot calling the kettle black).  I think that this attitude is so pervasive that they are even reluctant to get to know an American when they meet one,  i.e. me at playgroups.  Trying to befriend the English mums around here has been like pulling teeth.

9.  Meeting people

Along those same lines, making friends has been one of the most frustrating experiences I have had here.  In America, if you meet a woman you like, especially if she has a child of similar age, you could immediately say, “Let’s meet up for coffee on such and such day”.  Here, I have found that English women find that a little forward and are put off if I try to suggest getting together too quickly after meeting.  I met a woman pushing a stroller in my neighborhood and we stopped and chatted for a little while.  I really liked her and wanted to invite her over for tea but I was afraid of seeming too ‘pushy’ and thought I would wait until the next time we ran into each other.  That didn’t happen again for another year and a half!  At that time, it seemed a little late to invite her.

8.  Taxes

I do not need to say too much on this point.  Let’s just say I can truly understand why the early Americans revolted against the British.  A 50% income tax rate is being approved in this country.  Enough said.

7.  Too much makeup

I don’t know why the young women in this country feel the need to cake on the make up.  Combined with the trampy clothing, they look like prostitutes in an opera production.  They have such fresh-scrubbed , healthy looking faces naturally.  The layers of foundation are especially ridiculous.

6.  Background checks

There is new legislation that requires all adults to have a criminal background check if they are involved in any organized activity with children at least once a month.  At first glance, this seems perfectly reasonable and safe.  However, when you look at it more closely and look at this requirement in practice, it seems a little sinister.    The Independent Safeguarding Authority will require the comprehensive background check even for parents carpooling children to school.  Authors who go to school for readings will need to be checked.  In one case, a psychiatrist accompanied by a parent was not allowed access to the school in an emergency because she had not had the check.  The ISA has also said its investigators must even consider dismissed charges in a person’s background so that if someone has had false accusations against him/her, they could potentially be barred from ever working with children.  This is outrageous!  The danger in all of this is that the government is trying to convince parents that children will be 100% safe now because practically everyone will be checked.  Does this sound rational?  Are we giving up all responsibility of protecting our children to the government?  This does not sound like an effective or safe idea.  Look at the Thalidomide scandal in the 195os/1960s.  See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thalidomide.  Do we really want the government taking so much control of our children’s safety?  I think this new requirement is an invasion of privacy and I refuse to have one done if I’m carpooling my kids to school.  Go ahead, arrest me!

5.  The school run

For those of you who do not live in England, the school run consists of parents driving their kids to school in the morning and picking them up in the afternoon.  They do not do school buses in this country.  This means that every day around 8:30am and 3pm, you have an additional rush hour of traffic that also includes bottlenecks of SUV and minivans near all schools as parents drop off and pick up kids.  What a mess!  In a country that is part of the European Union, where our carbon footprint is harped upon constantly, you would think school buses would be a given.  Not so.  So I have the joy of lugging my young twins to school everyday as I send Will off to school the next few years.  Talk about chaos in the morning at our house!

4.  The justice system

This subject could be a 5000-word essay but let me just give one example of how confused this legal system is.  A year or so ago, a convenience store owner was locking up his store and getting into his car with his cash bag when he was attacked by a thief with a knife.  He defended himself against the attacker and in the scuffle the knife went into the heart of the attacker.  When the police came, they arrested the shop owner (who had several knife wounds and was very injured) and took him directly to jail.  Eventually, the shop owner was cleared of this death but not before having to defend himself legally and suffering some jail time.  The official position was that the shop owner used undue force against this deadly attacker. That’s outrageous!  The prevailing view in this justice system is if a law-abiding citizen is even slightly aggressive, violent, or transgressing a minor law, they are much more harshly punished by the courts than career criminals who do terrible acts.  It seems the government is offended if a good citizen dares cross the line and thus he must be taught a lesson, but they expect nothing less from a criminal so it really doesn’t matter how you punish them.  There is so much more that can be written but this is a general idea of what appalls me.

3.  Health and safety

There is a government agency in England that is called Health and Safety.  Apparently it is their job to make sure no one ever gets hurt doing anything.  It has gotten so extreme that England’s government has the nickname of the Nanny State because of how it has tried to involve Health & Safety in every aspect of people’s lives.  High school chemistry classes are hardly allowed any experiments with chemicals because of H&S.  My husband’s job has rules that do not allow him to lift a single box no matter the size unless he is ‘trained’ on how to lift it.  I believe if someone wants to do something dangerously stupid or even mildly dangerous, it’s their prerogative.  Let them suffer the consequences of their actions.

2. Rampant thievery

This one is somewhat related to the justice system.  London is a den of thieves.  While living in the city, we were robbed four times in three years — two house break-ins, one pickpocket in a supermarket, and one online debit card theft.  Thousands of pounds were lost.  In all four thefts, the perpetrators had been or easily could have been identified.  No thief received any jail time or much consequence due to his/her actions.  It pays to be a thief here because you won’t go to jail and in some cases the police do not even pursue the case.  I lived in New York City for four years and was not robbed once.  I now scuttle about the city clutching my purse, hovering over my ATM withdrawals, and locking doors and windows tightly while making sure it’s obvious that we now have a big dog.  Fun.

1.  The weather

No mention of England can omit talk of the weather.  I now understand why.  The weather is truly terrible and it affects your mood constantly.  You can practically wear the same jacket year round because the usual weather forecast is mostly cloudy with rain and some patches of sun.  Winters are terribly dreary — dark, cold, and rainy.  That darkness can really weigh you down after a while.  The summers can be sunnier but never quite that warm and you always have to bundle up in the evening again so dining al fresco  for dinner is just not that pleasant.  I miss hot summers and cold, snowy winters.  I certainly see why drinking is so popular over here.  When it is raining, just above freezing, and dark at 4pm on a November day, all you want to do is have a pint in a warm pub.  (There are some good things about England, like pubs, but I’ll do a separate blog about that in the future).

So there is my rant.  I know people will disagree with me on several points but the essence of these issues is not incorrect.  Merry Christmas everyone :)!