Saturday, 27 December 2008

Travels with Muriel V: PDAs

I never thought I'd say this, but I really miss the British reserve. I've already been subjected once, very much against my will, on the Tube in London, to a soft-porn show starring not-very-attractive people. And yesterday, on the coach (bus to South Africans) from Hitchin to Milton Keynes, I had just settled down with my crappy girlie novel for the hour's journey when I heard some horribly familiar sucking, licking noises coming from behind me.

I whipped around and poked my nose between the seats and there, so close I could have, well, licked them, were yet another horny British couple, doing the grooming-marmosets thing. Again, the cute factor was resoundingly absent - these two could have been stamped from the same mould as the London pair, the boy gangly with a huge nose and premature baldness, the girl utterly unremarkable except for her bottle-bottom specs and greasy hair.

I said, loudly, 'I don't bloody believe this,' but they were so intent on cleaning each other's tonsils by tongue that they didn't hear me.

I'm no prude (really, I'm not), and the human populace at large is more than welcome to kiss itself into a coma, but I so wish they wouldn't do it where I have to watch and, possibly worse, hear them.

Anyway! The British Reserve was fabulously well represented by the young man I sat next to on the next leg, from Milton Keynes (a major bus exchange that lacks anything at all in the way of amenities - a blot on the otherwise impressive landscape of British public transport, in my opinion - which meant that I had to sit outside on a metal bench in sub-zero temperatures for two hours waiting for my next coach, a paralysingly chilly experience) to Manchester.

Wishing to tilt my seat back a bit so I could snooze, I fumbled around under it to find the lever that would allow me to do this. The young man, similarly searching for the lever on his side (as it turned out, neither was there), mistakenly brushed his hand against mine. His reaction was very entertaining: he recoiled as if stung by a scorpion and stared at me aghast, his eyes so wide I worried they might actually fall out. I gave him what I thought to be my most unthreatening smile and said, 'Looks like the levers have broken off, so no lying back and relaxing for us this trip, eh?'

I know he spoke English because he was reading a thick textbook entitled 'Biological Psychiatry' and you have to have more than a smattering to get through something like that, I'd imagine, but he reacted, again, as if I'd just suggested we nip down to the Portacabin at the back of the bus and have a quickie. He turned bright red and shifted his body so that, as far as he was able in such limited space, he had his back to me. I found this reassuringly odd.

By the time I reached Manchester last night the temperature was beginning to plummet in a satisfyingly winter-in-the-UK way, and by the time we - my auntie Janet, of Bobby the Baboon Spider fame; my uncle Brian and my cousin Stephen - wandered 'down the pub' (I wonder why Brits leave out prepositions willy-nilly) it was so cold it hurt to breathe. We had a slap-up dinner at a local Indian restaurant, where, for reasons we can't work out (except that maybe one of us had been mistaken for someone famous), we got lots of free stuff - a bottle of wine that Janet immediately drank because it would have been rude not to; a Nepalese vegetable dish that we all agreed should probably have stayed in Nepal; and mugs with the restaurant's name printed on in fantastically gaudy gold script.

This morning, to my delight, we woke up to a frost-covered world, all white and sparkly and delicately pretty. Who knows, I may even see snow before I leave.

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Anonymous said...

A wonderful English education I am having - thanks to you and your marvellously entertaining (and informative) blog entries - don't stop 'til you arrive back on SA soil. Sus

Muriel said...

So glad you're learning stuff, Sus. I am too, every day. It's such a pleaure to discover that in spite of the world having become a global village, there are still cultural kicks to be had. I'm finding the English endlessly entertaining. I go to Scotland tomorrow and am assured they're even odder. Can hardly wait!

Anonymous said...

I want one of those mugs!