Social Leverage

Social Leverage

Cool Britannia

By Carla Lever

Look, don’t tell anyone, but I’m in England. It’s true. One too many late nights spent marking horrific exam scripts to the backdrop of the Jubilee concert and I couldn’t help myself.
So here I am. Not soaking up the cultural sights in London, but generally soaking in Bournemouth (of course it’s raining). There’s a thrilling outlook of an extended cold front for the next week and an average temperature of 14 degrees. You lot can rest assured that your weather is almost certainly tropical by comparison to the Great British Summer.

For those who don’t know, Bournemouth is a seaside town on the south coast – not nearly as cool as Brighton; not nearly as hot as Cherbourg on the other side of the Channel. It’s also known rather cheerily as ‘God’s Waiting Room’ – if you’re here, you’re either a pushing a zimmerframe down, or soft drugs on the street corner.
You might think, from reading this, that I’m not having a good time. You’d be wrong.
There are very few things I find as uplifting as being immersed in a good, comfortable chav culture. It’s not every day that you can wake up in a town and feel you could take virtually any passer-by in a genetic ‘Weakest Link’ face off.

Chavs aside, I really do love a bit of Blighty. Give me self-deprecating humour any day; pass a little moody with the mayonnaise.
Because let’s be honest, there’s nothing Brits like more than a spot of bother. One glance, for example, at the Jubilee parade – where hundreds of thousands of people voluntarily gathered in siling rain at the side of the Thames armed with nothing more than a thermos of tea and a grim determination to Have a Good Time – will confirm this odd trait.

If Americans are a nation of irrepressible Tiggers, Brits are all-Eeyore. We’re a cynical nation of moaners, true, but take away our thistles for dinner and we wouldn’t be very pleased. There’s a special delight that’s reserved for the dry; a merriment in the maudlin. We do depression and we do it very, very well. Lost the Ashes again? Chin up, old chap. Rebekah Brooks paddling the News Of The World up s–t creek? All in a day’s work.
Armed with all these oddities and a sense of humour so dry it gives Savannah a run for its advertising buck sometimes makes us Brits a tad misunderstood (take a look at the first result that comes up when you google ‘English Person’ and you’ll perhaps see my point).
I wouldn’t have it any other way, though.

I cannot tell you, for example, how gleeful it makes me to spend a weekend in a town where the local shop’s cheery window displays picture an orthopaedic skeleton pushing a motorised shopping vehicle. It makes my day when I trot past the local chippy and get to the classy strip, where – in a fit of irony oblivion – they’ve seen fit to name the most expensive restaurant Alcatraz Brasserie. I almost lose my nut when I flick through the telly guide and see the ‘must watch’ page leading with a show described as ‘an animated journey of the history of the cabbage’.

So let the Yanks be endlessly and painfully chipper; let the French roll their eyes together with their r’s. There’s something rather magnificent about the mundane. You only have to take a look at the seaside revellers riding the carousel with fizzy pink candy floss in one hand and can of Guinness in the other to realise that the nation is in safe hands. That’s skill, mate. Mad skill.

Follow Carla Lever on Twitter (@carlalever)
Email your thoughts to carla@48hours.co.za