Monday, June 23, 2014

To be British, is to be Patient - Ten Examples of British Stoicism

I may have talked about this before - a peculiar characteristic of being British is being very patient and stoic even in the most difficult of times. But I am going to revisit this subject again as needs must. You'll find out why later. I would say I am a very patient person - although I am getting less so as I get older as my tolerance to ignorance grows shorter. (Please refer to the 500+ posts on this blog for details.)

So anyway enough about me. Lets look at some examples of this peculiar British habit:


It goes without saying that at the top of the examples list is the British habit of waiting patiently in a queue. Sometimes people wait in queues for whole days outside Harrods at sale-time or sleep on the pavements outside Buckingham Palace for a glimpse of HRH. There is no greater crime in the UK than queue-jumping. Try it and you will be met with scathing looks or, at the very least, whispers about being mentally unstable, drunk or "not from around here." If you are in the doctors, dentists or hospital waiting room the conversation will always be about what position you are in the queue:

"He's first, I'm second, so you must be after the woman in the polka dot dress who's third."

"But my appointment is 10.30 and your card says 10.40."

"You were late. You've missed your place in the queue."


You're covered in blue welts, have ear ache, gangrene in one foot and ulcers on your tongue:

"Why don't you go to the doctors?"

"There's nothing wrong with me. If I'm not better in a few days I'll book an appointment."


You've been waiting in the queue at the newsagents with a copy of  The Daily Mail and a pint of milk for thirty minutes. You didn't really want The Daily Mail but the pictures of the front caught your eye and the pint of milk is going sour but you did really want a lottery ticket and a packet of Benson and Hedges ciggies. You get to the front of the queue and:

"I'll have two lucky dips and a packet of Benson and Hedges."

"I'm afraid the lottery machine's just broken down."

"Oh. Just the Benson and Hedges then."

"I'm afraid I've just sold the last three packets to the man with the walking stick."

"I'll have a packet of Gillette razors."


You're sitting outside your child's reception classroom. Your appointment was at 6.45 pm and it's now 7.55 pm. You've missed your favourite soap opera and peed on your trousers because you could only find the kids loos and your bladder was bursting. The teacher bounces to the door wearing her Jesus sandals, flowered smock and a daisy chain around her neck.

"Who's next?"

You leap up overjoyed: "I am!"

The woman next to you bursts into tears: "I can't wait any longer. My mother's in hospital and my husband goes on night shift in thirty minutes."

You sit back down with a thump. "You can go first."

The teachers wraps her arms around the other parent and give you an encouraging wink. You open up your bag and take a Sudoku puzzle and fill in random numbers whilst you imagine torching the school.


Your ring British Telecommunications (BT) for the twentieth time to tell them your mother died three years ago, you no longer own that property and to stop harassing you for an outstanding payment you don't even owe.

"Oh, I see. I quite understand the problem. I'll just transfer you to someone who deals with this..."

" No! Wait......"

*Music plays*


You go to the hairdresser and ask for a "few light waves" to add a bit of bounce to your thinning hair. Ninety minutes later you look into the mirror and see you transformed from a middle-aged, white middle class woman into a young Michael Jackson. You politely thank the hairdresser and walk to the nearest alternative hairdresser and ask them to cut it all off. Three months later, after you've spent thirty minutes smoothing down the last of the curls with extra strong gel, you open your Sudoku puzzle book and randomly fill out the numbers whilst fantasying about torching the hairdressers.

Your confidence can really be affected when you get the wrong haircut. If you're like me and get an  unexpected afro it ain't so bad as you can say you're a big fan of MJ and you're going to a rock-star fancy dress party. Unfortunately, the  gentleman above couldn't use the same excuse as his haircut made him look like Justin Beiber.

You been waiting for fifteen minutes in the queue at the petrol station. When you finally pull up at the pump, just as you get out of your car the attendant appears and puts the "empty" sign on the diesel. You get back into your car, drive out of the station and onto the next petrol station. When you get there is it closed due to "Unforeseen circumstances." You drive home without the air conditioning on, trying to not to brake or speed and wondering whether you have a new book of Sudoku puzzles.


You are just about to step on the 9.30 am train to London for a day's shopping, revisiting old haunts and tea with your best friend from college who you haven't seen for twenty years when your phone rings:


"Mrs Turley?"


"I'm afraid Ben fell over and has a slight scratch on one of his fingernails and the hairs on his eyebrows look slightly out of place."

"Is he concussed?

"I don't think so."

"Is he bleeding?"


"Well he sounds okay. And as I'm just about to step on the train to London and I've already bought my ticket can you send him back to class, please."

"I really think you should come. It could turn into something serious."

*Long pause*

"Are you there, Mrs Turley?"


"Well we see you in thirty minutes then. I'll give Ben a cold compress."


You ring BT and get cut off. You ring BT and get cut off. You ring BT and get cut off. You ring BT and get through to customer services and just as you tell them your problem you get cut off. You ring BT, you get through, tell them your problem and then you get put on hold. After ten minutes on hold a man comes on line and you tell him your problem again. He says "You've come through to the wrong department, I'll transfer you."

 *Music plays*


You order the proof copy of your (stunning) d├ębut novel from the US. You are thrilled at the prospect of it arriving on the 9th June. On the 16th of June you are still throwing open the door with girlish optimism but sadly, it still doesn't arrive. You put the delays down to customs having a good read of the naughty bits and remember what your parents said about patience being a virtue. On the 23rd June you finally ring the US and discover your book has not even been sent. They claim it has been "lost en route" but you know better because you've looked up the tracking information. You gratefully accept the $15.00 dollar refund for the express dispatch fee and decide to invest in a new Sudoku book.

Subject to no further delays and my proof copy arriving with no further hitches I shall be launching The Changing Room on Tuesday July 1st. And yes The Changing Room is already online as an eBook but on the 2/3 of July I will be offering it at a reduced price to encourage all you good people to buy and help push it up the Amazon charts. In the meantime, if you live in the UK and want to splash out the few extra pence, you can get ahead in a little competition I shall be giving details of later in the week by purchasing and reviewing The Changing Room on

And now for a break. It's been another disappointing day. Time to be patient and stoic (with the aid of some very nice chocolate and a glass of vino.)

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