What is it with the English and their ribaldry? While we get a sense of this by comparing the English to the American versions of Who’s Line is it Anyway?, you can’t really get a complete picture until you watch a good dollop of BBC and ITV. While conventional wisdom sees the English as Victorian prudes, reality, at least as reflected on television, suggests completely the opposite. One program we watched a couple of nights ago, for example, was a David Letterman-like “chat show” running in prime time. One of the sketches on the show saw spouses revealing to the public the secret pet names they had for various of their partners’ body parts. The descriptions thereof involved liberal use of phrases like “when Bobby comes…” And they weren’t talking about coming home after work. Not the kind of thing you hear on US television, or on Mike Bullard here, unless it’s very distantly approached with the broadest metaphor.
Of course this is tempered by the prevalance of gardening shows running in prime time.
The best programme we saw was on BBC2 and was in the mold of the CBC programme Venture. Called I’ll Show Them Who’s Boss, the programme — which ran, as seems to be the case with the BBC generally, without commercials — concerned the exploits of one Gerry Robinson, well-established corporate turnaround artist, applying his business skills to small family enterprises. The episode we saw concerned AMT Coffee, run by three warring brothers. Robinson led them through a discovery exercise, trying to figure out which of the three of them should become CEO. At the end of the programme he made his recommendation, which came as a surprise to all of them. In the end, through a postscript, we learn that they choose to ignore his advice completely, but it was still a very interesting programme, and had wonderful production values.
More life in the U.K.: Catherine and I decided to start making up new British-sounding words and phrases for common everyday things. My favourite was “oatey cake,” which is the word we came up with to describe something the British otherwise call a “flapjack,” and which we would probably call a “granola bar” if it wasn’t so laced with butter and treacle. Mmmm.
If you are a parent travelling in Europe, here’s a small glossary: a “stroller” in North America is a “buggy” in Spain and a “push-chair” in Britain. A baby’s “crib” in North America is commonly a “cot” in Europe, but sometimes “cot” seems to mean, well, “cot.” There are no “high chairs” anywhere in Europe, at least as far as we could tell: in Spain you just let your kids sit in a normal chair, or on your lap; in England you are supposed to put your kids in the back shed while you eat (or something). One more thing: kids under 5 generally pay nothing for anything in Europe — trains, museums, hotel rooms, etc. “Under 5” in Europe is the same as “under 2” in North America.