Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Peculiar English Tradition

I haven't fallen down a pothole. I'm still alive - albeit in rather rotund form. Although to be fair to myself I have actually started my traditional New Year diet. Only this year to make it even more of a challenge I decided to start on February 1st rather than January 1st. Ambitious eh?

 So the challenge is whether or not I can get into a bikini by August.

Anybody out there related to Houdini? I could do with some advice....

Okay, okay I'm teasing- I don't really wear bikinis. I'm English! I wear Laura Ashley smocks and Wellington boots and a pinafore. Even on the beach. Do you know how cold it is on an English beach? An afternoon on a English beach is like being whipped with an ice laden tea towel whilst standing stark naked in a force ten gale.  Painful.  And anyone who doesn't wear (at the very least) a smock, thermals, an insulated coat, woolly hat, gloves, scarf and three pairs of socks to an English beach is destined to have recurrent chilblains for the next forty years.

You know how we English got the reputation for having a "stiff upper lip"? No? Well I tell you how it came about...

When we are babies English tradition has it that we are left in our prams on promenades, piers or in our back gardens for a dose of good old sea air. (Apparently, it's good for the lungs and builds up a cast iron constitution.) Roughly, this tradition translates to 12 hours a day in the freezing cold with only a rubber teat for company and a flock of seagulls pooping on your pram.

For about 3 years. Or until such time you can undo your harness and scream "child abuse."

So that's how we English got a stiff upper lip; it started out because our lips were actually frozen solid. However, after we won two world wars other nations realised that there was no way they could beat a country whose children were subjected to such hideous infant torture. God knows - I remember only too well those days spent looking forlornly out of my Silver Cross pram worrying if the seagulls were going to shit on me and yearning for my mother's breast.

(Okay, maybe a little dramatic licence there as I can't actually remember anything; I was practically mummified.)

Anyway, bearing in mind this great English tradition it's no miracle we were able to evacuate so many of our soldiers from Dunkirk. It was just like a bracing stroll along the promenade with a few German dive bombers instead of  seagulls...

I say Johnnie - there's a Stuka at 11 o'clock.  I'll cover you whilst you and the boys wade out in your Wellies."

Yes, Sir!  It'll be damn cold out there though, Sir!

Just bracing sea air, Johnnie. Perfect opportunity for an afternoon swim. 

Yes, Sir!  Shall I tell the boys to swim the last two miles to Dover for some exercise, Sir?

Excellent idea, Johnnie. Don't forget to practice the synchronised swim routine too.

Yes, Sir!

Right, heads down Everyone!  Damned blasted Jerries... and I wanted to be back in Old Blighty for tea....

Yep, so that's the story of how we got our stiff upper lip.

Well maybe.


  1. Mrs T tells it like it is. It's all true.

    However, since being left out in the garden to scream, I've turned into a big softie and like the heating turned up to 'MAX'. Please, when can I stop putting on five layers just to do the school run? (The toughening-up process doesn't always work ...)

  2. I use my own insulation instead of jumpers Mrs B - it's called "Fat".

    Hopefully by summer there will be less fat - which means next winter could be particularly trying:))

  3. Love it!

    I don't know how many times I was told to stick Bubble outside in her pram to sleep... I thought to myself, Why on earth would I do that? It's bucking freezing outside!

    Only place more bracing than an English beach is an Irish one.

  4. Yep, it's completely mad idea Cheryl and just proves to the rest of the world that we are completely mad.

    I agree Irish beaches are awful too - in fact I spent last Feb half term on Irish beach and I'm still suffering from the side effects:)

    The only difference between the English parental traditional and the Irish parental tradition is that the Irish have the good sense to knock their babies out with some strong Irish malt first....

  5. lol! Your posts always make me laugh. I had no idea your beaches were so darn cold, and I thought california was bad. Northern Cali that is. It is usually foggy, windy, and freezing. We do have rare warm days, but it's best to wear layers when visiting the seaside. So glad to see you are still blogging!

  6. Hey Michele - long time no see:))

    Yeah - what can I say- our beaches are miserable. You know, I thought all of California was sunny - guess my geography isn't so hot! Glad I found out now though as knowing my luck if I booked a holiday in California I'd have booked one in the cold bit and come with only my swimsuit and a pair of flipflops:))

    It's great to see you back blogging again by the way - and with a child in tow now I see:) I look forward to you recounting some humorous stories!


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