The vital Importance of Being Earnest (Vaudeville Theatre, London)

TIOBE1An unusual but not unique blog today with a set of thoughts based around (among other productions) a review of The Importance of being Ernest. This classic comedy is arguably Oscar Wilde’s true masterpiece and is currently playing for a relatively short run at the Vaudeville Theatre, London.

As a fan of this Wildian romp through Victorian social climbing I was desperately looking forward to seeing this production. With David Suchet and Michele Dotrice there was a promise which was almost always carried the risk of under delivering.  However, in this case that was an unnecessary fear.

From the very first entrance on stage by Algernon Moncriefe, it was clear we were dealing with actors comfortable with large parts. The sets had been prepared with a conservative but effective attention to detail and simplicity but allowed a modern and witty directing style to keep the actors in a near permanent state  of animation.

Whilst this was well received by the audience (and ultimately it’s bums on seats that count) I thought the amount of ‘business’ on stage might be slightly more than was called for by the original, rather more leisurely script. However, it made for both a bright and pacey first act which took us rushing to the first of the two intervals.

globe2Only a few weeks earlier, I had been lucky enough to see As you Like It at the Globe theatre, a production I enjoyed and am similarly pleased to have seen.

However, for a production which spent so much time focusing on detail and accuracy there were a few ‘liberties’ taken with the production apparently to make the play more palatable to modern audiences. Perhaps the most notable being the entrance of Audrey (a comedy foil) on stage riding a 1970’s style shopper cycle which  although effective was certainly anachronistic. For anyone other than the purist (and perhaps not even all of them) this worked well and brought humour to an otherwise ‘hard going’ part of the play. However, for me it jarred, it was almost lazy, the easy way out.

Please don’t misunderstand me, the actors concerned were both excellent and unless Audrey snuck in the cycle as some elaborate ad-lib, were operating as directed. Presumably the addition was felt necessary to lighten the mood and make the scene more accessible to a modern audience? It’s simply that with so much attention to detail elsewhere this was almost patronising to the audience. Would a wooden wheel-barrow or a donkey or anything less out of time been an impossibility? Alternatively, why not in line skates or a moped?

My concerns, such as they existed were similar for the Importance of being Earnest. The text is certainly of it’s time and even dated in parts, but directors please note – 90 percent of the audience know this before they buy the tickets.

clownFor my taste, the production fell just on the wrong side (at times) of pratfalls and farce. Again, it was clear why, to ma language more accessible, text less dense and to give multi-dimensional characterisation to characters who stretch the suspension of disbelief at times.

However, the amount of physical comedy from a cast who clearly could have achieved the same level of comedy from the beauty of the text was at times overdone for my liking – although many in the audience clearly loved it and didn’t share my concerns.

It is impossible (or perhaps more accTIOBE2urate to say) that it would be inappropriate to single out any particular cast member as they were a true ensemble acting as a traditional troupe.

David Suchet’s Lady Bracknell was an amazingly subtle almost filmic tour de force of facial expressions and comedy timing. Having seen many others including Dame Maggie Smith and Edith Evans (albeit on film) he certainly found new space for this amazing character to live.

However, even here, (whether following direction or the actors wish not to ‘parrot’ Dame Edith), there was a singular choice which left me robbed of an old friend.

The best known line in the production is undoubtedly ‘A handbag?’ asked (usually incredulously) by Lady Bracknell on learning of the birthplace (or at least finding) or Jack Worthing.

Undoubtedly for the best of theatrical reasons, this was delivered not as a statement of shock or disbelief, but rather as a swallowed laugh. The only point in a spotless performance that I felt didn’t quite ring true.

DirectorSo was I glad to have seen the performances? Absolutely.  Did I enjoy them? Undoubtedly. My only appeal would be to Directors to trust their audiences to know the work they are about to watch or to be capable enough to endure the rough patches with the high emotional and performance peaks.

So much has been ‘dummed down’ in recent years that some of us seek out challenging, thought provoking and demanding theatre. Sometimes that also includes being reintroduced to an old friend who doesn’t need to have been subject to a ‘makeover’ or turned into pantomime. Be brave, be imaginative but remain true to the text and the spirit of the production.

Regrettably you are too late to see As you Like It, but if you get a chance to see The Importance of Being Earnest and tell me I know not of what I speak, I would thoroughly recommend you to do so. Two amazing shows.

Is a Plantagenet Queen responsible for my fuel bill?


Elizabeth Woodville (1437-1492)

Now before anyone screams at me, this isn’t an entirely serious posting (hard to believe I know). However, it did follow on from some thinking about the law of unintended consequences.

Yesterday’s post about renewable energy raised a few eyebrows among readers, particularly a couple of questions over the real time display of UK energy use by energy type. The dashboard display can be found at However, be warned it’s highly addictive viewing.

So who, I hear you ask was Elizabeth Woodville and what has she got to do with UK energy demands and more specifically my fuel bill?

Well here comes the history bit (and the easiest part) first. Elizabeth Woodville was Queen of England between 1464 and 1483. She was the wife of Edward IV and the mother of the ‘Princes in the Tower’.allegedly killed by the infamous (and possibly much maligned) Richard III.

To understand the queries about the real-time use of energy in the UK and a former Queen’s part in contributing to my gas bill we should start by looking at a particularly British power usage anomaly – the tv pick-up. The nature of this strangely British quirk is explained in the following short video

For those who chose not to watch, this shows a spike in demand for power across the UK of some three thousand million watts. This only happens in the UK (to this extent) and occurs between the most popular soap operas. So – what on earth makes Britain unique in having to deal with sudden power surges between popular tv shows?

kettleThe National Grid put the effect down to two actions. Firstly millions of UK viewers using the advert break to put on the kettle for a very British cuppa. Shortly afterwards (following a fairly consistent gap) millions of fridge doors are simultaneously opened to allow a dash of milk to be added.

Whilst it is certainly true that ad breaks make convenient times to make a hot drink in places other than the UK, it is far more likely that the drink being made will be coffee. As we all know, coffee (particularly with the move from instant granules) is likely to be percolating constantly with no subsequent spike in demand for boiling water. So it appears that Britain’s love of Camellia sinensis (the tea plant) provides its own specific energy consequences.

Of course this perfect storm only matured with the arrival of television, electric kettles and a ready supply of running water which is some time after the introduction of tea into the country. However, it is the nation’s love of this particular beverage (with milk) that causes this unusual double whammy in demand not seen elsewhere.

Green tea was first introduced in the coffee houses of London (how ironic) in the 1660’s promising a cure all property for conditions ranging from gout to scurvy. However, at this time the Chinese valued the plant so highly that they would only exchange it for gold or silver.

The British government of the time started trading Opium brought in from Afghanistan and India in an attempt to secure the tea plant. In the process it secured some tea thanks to the services of Robert Fortune an early spy. As a side effect it also created tens of thousands of addicts and kicked off the Opium wars – worth pondering when you next fish a tea bag out of your cup.

milkteaThe plants taken from China were then introduced into India where the Brits found they also grew well. However, the traditional addition of lemon was not possible at the time so the Indian tea was taken with the addition of milk. So the second of those energy spikes is clearly down to the early colonisation of India and subsequent development of the Raj.

The first and bigger spike is down to the vast popularity of the drink in the UK and in large part that followed the introduction into the country of the leaves by the East India Company. Once it was presented to Charles II the social acceptability of drinking crushed up leaves steeped in hot water grew exponentially. So if the biggest fuel spike is a product of the East India company – who can we apportion blame to for that?

Well (we’re getting to Elizabeth Woodville shortly) the Royal Charter was issued to the East India Company by Elizabeth I in December 1600. Actually, she was only perpetuating the exploratory tendencies of the earlier Tudors who were all (to a greater or lesser extent) interested in the growing New Worlds.

R3Any of Elizabeth’s immediate predecessors could have made a similar Charter offer. It was only the Plantagenets who favoured a more insular and non-expansionist monarchy focused on England. Had they continued it is almost certain that tea would be as uncommon in Britain as wheat grass or posset is today.

Clearly it’s down to the change from Plantagenet to Tudor that has led to us boiling millions of kettles at regular intervals. Although Richard III’s reputation has undergone something of a revival of late, it is certain that he was an often unpopular King mainly due to his early removal of King Edward V and his twin brother and locking them up in the Tower of London for safe keeping.

All of that finally brings us to Elizabeth Woodville, Had she let her late husband’s will stand, Richard would have been appointed protector to the King (he had already declared his loyalty before events overtook matters). Instead, Elizabeth ignored the conditions of the will and pronounced her son Edward V at the age of twelve leading to a fair amount of unpleasantness all round.

As a result, Richard was hated, support fell away, he lost the crown to Henry VII in 1485 and 520 years later it’s hello Chai Latte !

The serious implications of the energy spikes seen in the UK is a requirement to have significant capacity on stand-by and arguably a more robust and costly grid as a result. Guess where those costs end up – in part in our fuel bills.

Unintended consequences indeed. So join me in raising a cup of English Breakfast (nicely timed for your choice of Coronation Street or East Enders) in a toast to Elizabeth Woodville  the Electric queen !

A comparison of honesty

60% of the brain is water

60% of the brain is water

It is widely accepted by the majority of reputable medical sources, that for an average healthy male, the brain is sixty percent water (by weight). Similarly, the rest of the body is around 75% water.

For the brain, the rest is taken up with structures of the brain, blood, cerebral fluids and the like. This does make you ask how something as complex and varied as consciousness can exist in what is, in effect a wobbly bucket of blancmange?

Questions of consciousness aside, it does emphasise the importance of remaining hydrated to healthy brain and body functions. Failing to do so could therefore have consequences to both and may account, at least in part, to an increase in my tendency to put things down and forget them over recent days. Although I must admit this isn’t entirely new, as one of my last actions before leaving the UK was to stop my Oyster card ( a travel card for public transport in London).

My blog posting are somewhat Australian centric at present. Obviously they won’t be forever, but it isn’t entirely unexpected as I explore this place for the first time.

Put those two facts together and it doesn’t take much of a leap of reasoning to understand why I might be considering honesty as experienced in the UK and Australia.

18th/19th century 'transported' prisoners

18th/19th century ‘transported’ prisoners

So, what do we ‘know’ as a starting point? Well (with apologies in advance to my Australian friends) it’s widely believed in some circles in the UK that everyone in Australia is descended from rampant sheep rustlers (at best) – so dishonesty is far more likely. This has a number of flaws, not least historical inaccuracy – but never let the facts get in the way of a good stereotype.

It also misses the point that even if this had been the case, these ‘offenders’ were English and French (providing the majority of transported prisoners), so it would be reasonable to apply the same national stigma to the originating countries. Finally. transportation ended over 150 years ago. To suggest this has any residual bearing on national characteristics assumes the nature versus nurture debate has been won, which to best of my knowledge is not yet the case.

Bow Street Runners

Bow Street Runners

In contrast of course, the British Isles virtually single-handedly created the model for the modern police service, designed an effective Courts system and is the home of Parliamentary democracy – so surely honesty must be in the very DNA of its nationals.

Very few people ask why quite so many judicial functions were necessary in such a law abiding idyll. The vast majority of the population at this time lived in degrees of poverty. Whilst I count myself as a decent and responsible person, were I subject to those levels of social inequality and injustice, I may well have found myself travelling south courtesy of HMG.

Three modern day examples of honest behaviours spring to mind in this effort to compare and contrast the differences in thought processes and behaviours between the UK and Australia. These are the case of the mislaid camera, the mystery of the stolen wallet and the misplacing of the travel ticket.

Tahbilk wineries

Tahbilk wineries

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to visit Tahbilk wineries in Victoria (purely for tourist purposes you understand) and spent a very pleasant afternoon sampling their various products.

Not unlike many venues of this type, they were very popular with a reasonable number of visitors. Lunch was available in their bistro and my newish camera (Cannon D70) was placed on the chair next to me while we ate.

For reasons I can’t quite fathom it remained there after we left and it was only when we had left the winery that I realised it was missing. Making a quick turn around I went back to the bistro more in hope than expectation of finding the camera. However, it had been handed in and was behind the bar. The owner seemed quite alarmed that some people wouldn’t have considered returning it asking ‘but why wouldn’t they? The pictures won’t mean anything to them and you’d have to go in to Melbourne to get one of them’.

The thought that a thief may still be driven by emotional considerations rather than merely the profit motive was refreshing and striking. The similar situation in the UK would have been fruitless (in my view). It did make me wonder whether the sheer scale of this country/continent has an impact. The issue of replacing a stolen item and the disruption that would cause was factored into the consideration. It simply wouldn’t be an issue at home.

The second incident related to the theft of a wallet. It was explained to me (and independently corroborated by others) that it is fairly common for a pick-pocket to lift a wallet and after removing the available folding money to post the wallet in the nearest post box at which point the Australian postal service will attempt to return it to the owning bank or owner. All rather civilised  and different to the occasion I had my wallet stolen in London and was able to trace the pickpockets route by the trail of discarded content along his/her route. So if we did export our criminals it appears to have been the gentleman burglar school of larcenist.

TFL Oyster Card

TFL Oyster Card

The final comparison relates to the loss of travelcards. I mentioned that I had misplaced an oyster card in London. A quick check online showed that whilst in Canberra on 19th December I was simultaneously on the number 36 bus in Kennington.

In the world of e-travel it’s easy to see where your lost/stolen card has been used – not something my ‘finder’ thought about. So again, if we did export our criminal classes we must have sent the brighter end of the spectrum.

I mentioned that I had stopped the card some days earlier, however this hasn’t been processed in time so I lost my twenty pounds – after all it’s just an oyster card. Unfortunately a fairly typical reaction today.

Revolving restaurant

Revolving restaurant

Contrast that with the efforts of the staff at Sydney’s revolving restaurant where a similarly inconsequential travel card was left on the table. On reporting this the waiting staff made checks with their colleagues and offered apologies as to its loss. More effort than I had expected and more than experienced at home with Transport for London.

However, this was insufficient for the manager who at his insistence searched the ‘rubbish’ from the cleared tables and recovered the travel card. Something which I just cannot imagine happening in many places in the UK.

Although I don’t believe that Australia is free from its fair share of nefarious characters, there does seem to be something in the national psyche that is fundamentally honest. Of course both countries have their own shared similarities – the flexible approach to ticket purchases on some forms of public transport being good examples.

However, based on my personal experiences over the last 2 weeks I would say in terms of the UK ‘God save us from ungracious thieves’ and here ‘Advance Australia fair’

Perception, everything is perception.

Deciding to treat myself at the start of my journey into London, I booked a first class ticket on First Great Western.
Arriving on the train, I found my allocated seat was unavailable as it had a broken seat. My carriage was full apart from the disabled/wheelchair seat.


An unusually helpful train manager apologised for the broken seat offering me the disabled space instead.

Given that nobody else wanted the seat I accepted on the understanding that if it was required I would move carriages.

Some half an hour later, we drew in to Reading, the last stop before Paddington.
I was engrossed in a book I had brought with me, supposedly for tomorrow’s flight. For this reason I was initially unaware of the maloderous drunk making his was towards me from the train vestibule.

‘People like you make me sick’ he informed me. ‘There are disabled seats there for a reason’.

As he wasn’t entirely muntered, appearing to be a reasonable person with too many sherries on board, I tried to reason.
Explaining my seat was broken made no impact. ‘But your not disabled!’ he insisted.
I then explained the train manager had offered me the seat and I would vacate it if it was needed by a disabled passenger. Still no change in his position.
‘But your not disabled!’ he insisted. ‘The train bloke (presumably the manager), he’s not disabled. Get out of the seat’

A quick assessment of his current state  reassured me that he wasn’t an immediate threat.
‘Get out of the seat or I’ll break your (expletive deleted) neck’

I felt I was on fairly safe territory as the train manager no doubt attracted by the drunk’s loud voice was marching purposefully down the carriage. I should best describe him as well built. That is in the same sense that a brick mausoleum with insufficient flying buttresses is well built.

‘Presumably, at that point I would be sufficiently disabled to stay in the seat?’ I asked. ‘Seems like a wasted effort’

‘Lucky for you’ he replied just as the train manager descended upon him like the proverbial tonne of bricks. All the fun of the fair today !

Joyeux Noël: It’s downhill all the way.

Firstly, I must declare an interest. I’m with Dr Sheldon Cooper in being no great fan of the festival of Saturnalia. The over-commercialisation of the season has made it lose it’s appeal and meaning to many. I can see it’s potential, but the traditional family Christmas hasn’t been big on my radar for some years.

A particular dread in relation to season Saturnalia is the fact that it seems to be moving rapidly to a rolling celebration. As a child, I remember Christmas started with Advent – around 1st December, maybe late November if you were really unfortunate. Then through the 80’s and 90’s we gradually moved backwards starting in late November, then the middle of the month and increasingly in early November.

The Christmas Isle appears in mid October

The Christmas Isle appears in mid October

Today, despite the fact that I know products were launched by many supermarkets in September, I found myself in the seasonal goods isle and Christmas has definitely arrived. I would like to point out it’s yet to be Halloween so in my book it’s considerable too early for Christmas cakes, mince pies and Yule log.

Ironically, in the baked goods isle I’m still able to buy a range of Hot Cross Buns – but that’s another story. I couldn’t help but notice that the best buy/use buy date on many of the seasonal goods on offer expire at least 3 weeks before Christmas itself. Perhaps that could be a rule of thumb supermarkets could introduce to kerb their natural retail tendencies.

So now the battle to avoid the tinsel, canned carols and musak will escalate until a point (usually around 16th December) when I simply don’t want to go out of the house. Thankfully this year, I will be in Australia for the Saturnalia celebration. Whilst I’m certain it has reached Melbourne and Sydney, it will be so different to the UK that I almost felt I was getting a year off (until the supermarket incident).

To confirm my prejudice, Harrod’s Christmas Grotto has been forced to advertise that it is already closed before it even opens on 7th November. Entry to the high-class yule-fest is by ticket only (nothing so common as a queue in Harrods) and these are already sold out a few days after going on sale. So it appears you now have to plan for the Harrods Christmas Grotto visit at roughly the same time Wimbledon fortnight ends in June.

You never put a fairy on that !

You never put a fairy on that !

Around the country hooks and holders are already being put in place just waiting for lights to be strung from them as soon as the evenings have the decency to get dark at some reasonable hour to allow better retail sales.

Four employment agencies have already published urgent calls for Father Christmas candidates at shopping centres and grottos. It’s ironic (at least to me) that they are being employed before we’ve even got Halloween out of the way .. just morally wrong!

One exception to the bland preparations for the festivities is the sculpture recently erected in Paris. Apparently this green objet d’art is allegedly supposed to be a Christmas tree. However, according to those who should know it appears to be an oversized butt plug. Now who say’s the spirit of Christmas is dead ?



Oh you are awful …. but I like you !

Dick Emery

Dick Emery

Any comic or sit-com actor will tell you that catch phrases can’t really be planned – they just take off and work their way into the psyche of the audience.

The other characteristic of a catch-phrase is their longevity. A case in point happened today when I was walking through an office reception and heard a rather plummy female voice utter the phrase ‘Oh you are awful !’

Cut to 1979 and the now virtually forgotten comedian Dick Emery who had a vast array of characters in his then iconic Saturday evening comedy show. One of those characters a young lady called Mandy found herself subject to frequent end of the pier double entendre and always responded ‘Oh you are awful … but I like you!’ – Followed by a swift left hand shove.

Instantly I heard the comment in the reception area I mentally finished the punch line, even though I hadn’t heard it for at least 30 years and was a young child at the time.

Then I began to wonder why Dick Emery had been erased from British Comedy? Others such as Tommy Cooper, Frankie Howerd and the like are held up as major comic influences on others. Considering some of his material it certainly wouldn’t be considered PC but its certainly harmless.

The clips above show a range of the characters Emery created. Now although not rip-roaringly funny in this compilation, some of his work was ground-breaking. He was one of the only commedians in the 1970’s and 80’s to feature an openly gay (and yes camp) man – but one who was clearly enjoying all aspects of gay life. Something we rarely see even today.

So today I found myself saying thank you Dick Emery for making me laugh as a child and for raising a smile some 30+ years later. That has to be some record I’m sure.


Nanoo Nanoo

Mork and MindyThere are some personalities who seem to have been ever present. For me, Robin Williams is one of them.

Cast in the spin off from Happy Days, Williams was unknown in 1978 so given the delay in airing the series in the UK, I can’t really have been aware of him much before 1980, but to me he was a quirky, whitty ever present feature in my childhood.

With Pam Dawber in Mork and Mindy, his off the wall mischievous ability to add-lib was clearly given fairly extensive latitude. So unlike any other performers of this time, the producers of the programme said he was the only actual alien to turn up for the audition.

It’s probably a mark of an entertainer or a performer that they pass the ‘ I remember where I was when I heard’ test. Elvis Presley, Whitney Houston, Jack Lemmon all pass that for me and now Robin Williams is added to the list of those who’s death seems to rob me of something very personal.

For me the stripy jumpered Mork will always be associated with Sunday afternoons when it was first aired in the UK. For some time Williams was just the clown, the zany, ever performing live wire who had thousands of one liners and more energy than your average power station. Then as I grew older I saw him struggle and admit to issues with alcohol and substance dependence.

Along side that were some deeply touching and genuinely powerful acting roles that dispelled the image of the jobbing clown. Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society and Mrs Doubtfire had touches of deep pathos and real emotional insight. Less popular choices where I think I saw a momentary glimpse of the real man were Hamlet, The Birdcage and Insomnia. Even One Hour Photos (although a troubling and dislikeable film in my view) showed his bravery and real talent.

His star had certainly faded in recent years. The comic who could do no wrong and who’s mind travelled at warp speed had faded to a parody of a jaded comic on Family guy – something unimaginable and somehow hurtful for those of us who remember him at his zenith.

Even now the questions have started to be asked and reasons put forward for his apparent suicide. An alleged struggle with Parkinson’s disease, the suggestion of the risk of bankruptcy and the re-emergence of the well known battle against depression have been raised as contributing factors.

For me – none of those matter or diminish his gift and his curse which was to be an incredibly private and gifted performer. Unable to switch off in public, perhaps unable to be himself – we, the audiences who lapped up the madness share part of the responsibility.

So today, despite the news of unrest in the middle east, Ebola spreading in west Africa and many other more ‘serious’ news stories it is the death of Robin Williams that dominated the day and my thinking. An incredible talent and undoubtedly a vulnerable personality. It’s too easy to say we won’t see someone else like him (and often obviously untrue) … but in this case, it may just be accurate.

Nanoo Nanoo !

Calm down dear – it’s just a pepper !

It's still Bolognaise !!

It’s still Bolognese !!

It’s amazing how some things in life have an inbuilt ability to soothe, calm and de-stress.

Some people swear by chocolate, others in the UK, the ever present cup of tea. I’m surprised to find that one of my comfort foods is spaghetti bolognese. – Specifically the variation on a theme of Bolognese made by my better half.

Given that I had inadvertently managed to convince him I was dead over the past 24 hours (either that or just terminally disinterested) I was surprised to have a bowl of bolognese offered without finding I was wearing it.

I hate it when there is any friction of tension between us. Despite the misunderstandings of the last day, it was great to see him and find that the situation was salvageable, albeit that humble pie may be on the menu for the short term. I mentioned this and the very tasty Bolognese at which point it was rather like opening Pandora’s box to see what might happen.

Matters were overtaken when the food police swung in from all corners of the world to give definitive rulings on what could (and more importantly could not) form part of a Bolognese. So for the food pedants, here are the two issues at hand. Firstly, is it acceptable to include bell peppers in your Bolognese and secondly, should the cheese be grated, flaked or chunked. Personally I have better things to do that worry about these niceties – but I had to give a steer to those who clearly need to get out more 😉

The answer to the question (at least in my humble opinion) is that you can put nearly whatever you want in a dish of mince and pasta … For the purists spaghetti Bolognese may or may not contain bell peppers… frankly I don’t mind but the recipe Vaughan uses – which is as far as I know his variation on a theme is delicious so please cease and desist from the attacks over the addition of a pepper. If it helps, I’ll happily refer to it as Gumnut Bolognese or Bolognese a la Vaughan …. but really … does it matter ?

It reminds me of a mutual friend of ours who has a real issue with one of the reception rooms (which could have multiple uses) being turned into a third bedroom rather than a dining room – mainly because it was referred to as a dining room in the estate agent’s blurb on the house. I suppose I could suggest a middle ground … keep it as a dining room but serve him Bolognese a la Vaughan … with extra bell peppers !!

The art of English understatement.

meaningI’m lucky enough to have friends and a partner who weren’t born in the UK. Their similarities and subtle differences are a wonderful reminder of the beauty of the English language as well as the importance of place in our beliefs and perceptions. A couple of incidents ‘passed by’ my French, Dutch and Australian friends but fell like smouldering ordinance into the conversations of which they formed a part.

That made me reflect on a few of the typically British (or more specifically English) comments we say that have often unspoken alternative meanings. Here are just a few of the most frequent examples.


1. “I may join you a little later” – I have no intention of leaving the house again today unless it’s on fire

2. “I hope you’re feeling better very soon” – Get your arse in the office tomorrow you’re not kidding anyone

3. “It’s really not a problem” – It’s entirely your fault and if your were more intelligent you wouldn’t need me to pretend otherwise

4. “No – there’s no need” – There’s every need but clearly I’m wasting my time with this discussion

5. “That’s very striking” – You apparently got dressed in the dark and that doesn’t suit you (nor would it suit anyone else)

6. “Oh I hadn’t noticed” – Everyone is aware of your faux pas. However, I had the manners not to highlight your failing(s)

7. “Thank you so much” – You have placed me in an unbearably embarrassing position and I hate you for it

8. “It’s a bit of a pickle/mess” – A cataclysmic situation with no acceptable outcome which may result in the loss of life (probably yours)

9. “I probably didn’t make myself clear” – Are you stupid ? – Actually that point isn’t in doubt it’s just a question of degree.

10. “Is anyone sitting there?” – Move your bag now before I insert it into an orifice of my choice

11. “That’s really interesting” – Please kill me now you’re boring me witless

12. “Whenever it’s convenient” – Which part of now don’t you understand ?

13. “Well I suppose I ought to be making a move” – Bye

14. “You have such interesting friends!” – You’re really rather common aren’t you

15. “It’s a little early for me” – You’re obviously an unreformed drunk

16. “Never mind” – You were clearly too stupid to understand the first time so I’ve given up trying to explain it to you

17. “I’ve had a wonderful time” – I’ve hated every second of it; Never invite me again!

18. “Go ahead”  This is a dare and not permission to proceed

19. “You must do what you think is right of course” – Have you no standards ?

20. “If you say so” – You are obviously wrong, stupid or lying (or any combination of these)