Guest Post: 7 Reasons Great Britain is Better Than the United States of America
Today’s guest post comes courtesy of globe-trotting, observation-jotting, ale-totting, train-riding man of both style and substance, Simon Best. The last guest post that he wrote for us, 7 Reasons the United States of America is Better Than Great Britain, was such a success that Simon has come back to wholly contradict himself. Based on this evidence, it may appear to those who don’t know Simon, that he could start a fight in an empty room. This is not true. Simon is a pacifist and, as such, would probably give himself a stiff talking-to and then reconcile with himself over a nice cup of tea – which would also be the ideal accompaniment to this.
1. Tea. Quintessentially British. We displayed our attitude to tea by naming a type of tea after a nobleman, the Americans showed theirs by chucking box-loads into grimy water – without stopping to boil it first or add milk once it had brewed. This attitude has continued and most of the tea you find in America is herbal, fruity, decaffeinated and an abomination. Tea was what started the American war of independence, I know it led to the loss of a large colony but quite frankly, if they were prepared to do that with tea rather than sit down and have a chat over a cuppa then we’re better off without them. Fast food, instant coffee, drive-through restaurants, shock and awe – all American inventions and all about speed. In Britain we stop for tea. It’s an occasion and one the world’s only superpower could learn from. I think that pretty much every world problem could be solved by sitting down and talking over tea and cucumber sandwiches. President Obama take note, now you’ve won the Nobel Peace Prize you need to start having afternoon tea – it is the next step to world peace.
2. Language. The use of different phrases; trash can, for example, or parking lot is understandable and forgivable – after all, different parts of Britain use different words and phrases to refer to the same thing. What is not acceptable is spelling favourite without a ‘u’ or pronouncing ’herb’ as ‘erb’ unless they are talking about an elderly gentleman in a Hawaiian shirt. American readers, look at the word again – there is a letter ‘h’ at the front. Pronounce it. It really isn’t that difficult.
3. Cricket. America has three huge sports, and a few people play ice hockey too. American football, baseball and basketball are skilful and exciting sports. They even play football (or soccer) in America, and I’m not going to say anymore about that in case they beat England in the World Cup. What Americans don’t do is play cricket. I thought I didn’t need to say more than this, but I was told I couldn’t just stop there, so here goes; cricket is more stylish, more testing, requires greater all round ability, patience and superior tactics worked out with military precision – all of which can be thrown out by the weather. The closest America comes is baseball, which is essentially cricket for people with ADHD.
4. Monarchy. Having written this about a month ago I could reasonably be accused of treason against Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith. This reason isn’t an attempt to make amends for that because I’m not talking about the current royal family who, quite frankly, I have little time for. I know that Americans love our royal family, they loved Princess Diana so much that 64% of their citizens wanted to crown her Queen of Rhode Island*. However, I am talking about Kings and Queens past: Canute who demonstrated he was only human by proving to his subjects that he couldn’t turn back the sea, Alfred who inspired the invention of the oven timer, Henry VIII who (allegedly) wrote Greensleeves and Victoria who was grandmother to most of Europe’s monarchs at the time of World War I. Americans would love to have that kind of heritage.
5. Trains. I know First Capital Connect are rubbish and Southeastern Trains couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery, but the British rail network is infinitely better than that in America. Yes we have delays, and being sat for half an hour in a siding outside Grantham is frustrating, but when travelling in Britain I’ve never been delayed by 17 hours – as I was when on a train from New Orleans to Los Angeles. Americans claim to have conquered the West with the railroad, but modern trains and railways in America are rubbish; there are huge cities like San Francisco, Phoenix and Boulder, Colorado with no station. That’s like there being no station in Glasgow, Bristol or Cardiff. Services are also ridiculously infrequent; there is one train a day between Chicago and Los Angeles. Imagine missing the 16:04 from Paddington to Exeter and being told that the next train is at 10:37 tomorrow morning. In Britain we have bad railways and complain about them, giving us something to talk about. In America they have bad railways and fly everywhere.
6. Religion. Like the worst dinner party guest, I am going to address one of the subjects you are supposed to avoid in polite company. In Britain, religion is a nice add-on to life, a way of people coming together to eat scones and have jumble sales with a bit of (usually insipid) singing thrown in. It is comfortable, like a favourite cardigan or a pint of ale. In America, religion is full-on – fire and brimstone – like being forced to wear a hair shirt in 90 degree heat (which if you are Amish you probably are). Religion is still just as important to British people as it is to Americans – we just handle it better. We don’t care which church our politicians go to, or even if they go at all. We, rightly, have little interest in their Sunday morning activity (providing it doesn’t involve cruising on Clapham common or snorting cocaine with prostitutes). In America, the thought that an elected official might not be a regular churchgoer would be scandalous and there are frequent and heated debates about whether to allow prayers in state schools, or if it is ok to have the ten commandments on tablets of stone in a courtroom. In America, the separation of church and state has happened in law; in Britain, it has happened in reality.
7. Breakfast. America has perfected the breakfast egg, which is available in a bewildering variety of styles, but we have something wonderful over here; something that transcends mere bread, a brilliant, culinary exemplification of form following function and the perfect accompaniment to an egg – the toast soldier. Simple, tasty, ingenious; the toast soldier is guaranteed to enliven any eggy breakfast – it also turns up in time for the start of the breakfast, not several years after it has begun.
*This figure isn’t statistically verifiable.