"Never moon a werewolf.
(Mike Binder)

 

UNE NOTE DE L'AUTEUR

Chers Amis: Since I just returned from Cannes and parts of La Provence and most of Paris, I thought it would be appropriate to clear out all the British and other foreign stuff I found waiting in my e-box upon my return so I could write about les francais in upcoming issues, so here we go -- starting with this uncredited (but remarkably enlightening) piece:

 

HANDY TRAVEL HINTS

Language: The Brits have peculiar words for many things. Money is referred to as "goolies" in slang, so you should for instance say "I'd love to come to the pub but I haven't got any goolies." "Quid" is the modern word for what was once called a "shilling" -- the equivalent of seventeen cents American. Underpants are called "wellies" and friends are called "tossers." If you are fond of someone, you should tell him he is a "great tosser" -- he will be touched. The English are a notoriously demonstrative, tactile people, and if you want to fit in you should hold hands with your acquaintances and tossers when you walk down the street. Public nuzzling and licking are also encouraged, but only between people of the same sex.

Habits: Ever since their Tory government wholeheartedly embraced full union with Europe, the Brits have been attempting to adopt certain continental customs, such as the large midday meal followed by a two- or three-hour siesta , which they call a "wank." As this is still a fairly new practice in Britain, it is not uncommon for people to oversleep (alarm clocks, alas, do not work there due to the magnetic pull from Greenwich). If you are late for supper, simply apologize and explain that you were having a wank -- everyone will understand and forgive you.

Universities: University archives and manuscript collections are still governed by quaint medieval rules retained out of respect for tradition; hence patrons are expected to bring to the reading rooms their own ink-pots and a small knife for sharpening their pens. Observing these customs will signal the librarians that you are "in the know" -- one of the inner circle, as it were, for the rules are unwritten and not posted anywhere in the library. Likewise, it is customary to kiss the librarian on both cheeks when he brings a manuscript you've requested, a practice dating back to the reign of Henry VI.

Sightseeing: One of the most delightful ways to spend an afternoon in Oxford or Cambridge is gliding gently down the river in one of their flat-bottomed boats, which you propel using a long pole. This is known as "cottaging." Many of the boats (called "yer-I-nals") are privately owned by the colleges, but there are some places that rent them to the public by the hour. Just tell a professor or policeman that you are interested in doing some cottaging and would like to know where the public yerinals are. The poles must be treated with vegetable oil to protect them from the water, so it's a good idea to buy a can of Crisco and have it on you when you ask directions to the yerinals. That way people will know you are an experienced cottager.

Food: British cuisine enjoys a well deserved reputation as the most sublime gastronomic pleasure available to man. Thanks to today's robust dollar, the American traveler can easily afford to dine out several times a week (rest assured that a British meal is worth interrupting your afternoon wank for). Few foreigners are aware that there are several grades of meat in the UK. The best cuts of meat, like the best bottles of gin, bear Her Majesty's seal, called the British Stamp of Excellence (BSE). When you go to a fine restaurant, tell your waiter you want BSE beef and won't settle for anything less. If he balks at your request, custom dictates that you jerk your head imperiously back and forth while rolling your eyes to show him who is boss.

Wines: Once the waiter realizes you are a person of discriminating taste, he may offer to let you peruse the restaurant's list of exquisite British wines. If he doesn't, you should order one anyway. The best wine grapes grow on the steep, chalky hillsides of Yorkshire and East Anglia -- try an Ely '84 or Ripon '88 for a rare treat indeed. When the bill for your meal comes it will show a suggested amount. Pay whatever you think is fair, unless you plan to dine there again, in which case you should simply walk out; the restaurant host will understand that he should run a tab for you.

Transportation: Public taxis are subsidized by the Her Majesty's Government. A taxi ride in London costs two pounds, no matter how far you travel. If a taxi driver tries to overcharge you, you should yell "I think not, you charlatan!", then grab the nearest bobby and have the driver arrested. It is rarely necessary to take a taxi, though, since bus drivers are required to make detours at patrons' requests. Just board any bus, pay your fare of thruppence (the heavy gold-colored coins are "pence"), and state your destination clearly to the driver, e.g.: "Please take me to the British Library." A driver will frequently try to have a bit of harmless fun by pretending he doesn't go to your requested destination. Ignore him, as he is only teasing the American tourist (little does he know you're not so ignorant!).

Speaking of the British Library, you should know that it has recently moved to a new location at Kew. Kew is a small fishing village in Wales. It can be reached by taking the train to Cardiff; once there, ask any local about the complimentary shuttle bus to Kew. (Don't forget that buses are called "prams" in England, and trains are called "bumbershoots"--it's a little confusing at first. Motorcycles are called "lorries" and the hospital, for reasons unknown, is called the "off-license." It's also very important to know that a "doctor" only means a PhD in England, not a physician. If you want a physician, you must ask for an "MP" (which stands for "master physician").

Underground: For those traveling on a shoestring budget, the London Tube may be the most economical way to get about, especially if you are a woman. Chivalry is alive and well in Britain, and ladies still travel for free on the Tube. Simply take some tokens from the baskets at the base of the escalators or on the platforms; you will find one near any of the state-sponsored Tube musicians. Once on the platform, though, beware! Approaching trains sometimes disurb the large Gappe bats that roost in the tunnels. The Gappes were smuggled into London in the early 19th century by French saboteurs and have proved impossible to exterminate. The announcement "Mind the Gappe!" is a signal that you should grab your hair and look towards the ceiling. Very few people have ever been killed by Gappes, though, and they are considered only a minor drawback to an otherwise excellent means of transportation. (If you have difficulty locating the Tube station, merely follow the signs that say "Subway" and ask one of the full-time attendants where you can catch the bumbershoot.)

One final note: for preferential treatment when you arrive at Heathrow airport, announce that you are a member of Shin Fane (an international Jewish peace organization -- the "shin" stands for "shalom"). As savvy travelers know, this little white lie will assure you priority treatment as you make your way through customs; otherwise you could waste all day in line. You might, in fact, want to ask a customs agent to put a Shin Fane stamp in your passport, as it will expedite things on your return trip.

 [Editor's note: the previous article was written by Jo Miller, and it appears on her web site at http://www.serve.com/djm/guide.html. When this orbit was first printed, Phil and I -- not knowing the original source -- failed to attribute this wonderful article to Ms. Miller. We both regret this error.]

 

WE'RE ALL BOZOS ...

And herewith, a handy guide to ferners over there:

Aussies: Dislike being mistaken for Pommies (Brits) when abroad.

Canadians: Are rather indignant about being mistaken for Americans when abroad.

Americans: Encourage being mistaken for Canadians when abroad.

Brits: Can't possibly be mistaken for anyone else when abroad.

Aussies: Believe you should look out for your mates.

Brits: Believe that you should look out for those people who belong to your club.

Americans: Believe that people should look out for & take care of themselves.

Canadians: Believe that that's the government's job.

Aussies: Are extremely patriotic to their beer.

Americans: Are flag-waving, anthem-singing, and obsessively patriotic to the point of blindness.

Canadians: Can't agree on the words to their anthem, when they can be bothered to sing them.

Brits: Do not sing at all but prefer a large brass band to perform the anthem.

Americans: Spend most of their lives glued to the idiot box.

Canadians: Don't, but only because they can't get more American channels.

Brits: Pay a tax just so they can watch four channels.

Aussies: Export all their crappy programs, which no-one there watches, to Britain, where everybody loves them.

Americans: Will jabber on incessantly about football, baseball, and basketball.

Brits: Will jabber on incessantly about cricket, soccer, and rugby.

Canadians: Will jabber on incessantly about hockey, hockey, hockey, hockey, and how they beat the Americans twice, playing baseball.

Aussies: Will jabber on incessantly about how they beat the Poms in every sport they play them in.

Americans: Spell words differently, but still call it "English".

Brits: Pronounce their words differently, but still call it "English".

Canadians: Spell like the Brits, pronounce like Americans.

Aussies: Add "G'day", "mate" and a heavy accent to everything they say in an attempt to get laid.

Brits: Shop at home and have goods imported because they live on an island.

Aussies: Shop at home and have goods imported because they live on an island.

Americans: Cross the southern border for cheap shopping, gas, & liquor in a backwards country.

Canadians: Cross the southern border for cheap shopping, gas, & liquor in a backwards country.

Americans: Drink weak, pissy-tasting beer.

Canadians: Drink strong, pissy-tasting beer.

Brits: Drink warm, beery-tasting piss.

Aussies: Drink anything with alcohol in it.

Americans: Seem to think that poverty & failure are morally suspect.

Canadians: Seem to believe that wealth and success are morally suspect.

Brits: Seem to believe that wealth, poverty, success and failure are inherited things.

Aussies: Seem to think that none of this matters after several beers.

(From Glenn Micah Glazer, thanks to Marv Wolfman)

 

. . . OR ARE WE?

(FROM El Bozo Grande, Fred Wiebel) EL PASO, Texas (Reuter) - A homesick Honduran clown, tired from his travels but still wearing his outfit, waved down a U.S. Border Patrol pilot and asked to be deported back to his home country, officials said on Thursday.

Decked out in his full work outfit -- a white painted face, a blue nose, a rainbow-colored wig and a clown outfit -- the man caught the helicopter pilot's attention late on Tuesday by waving frantically from the ground on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande near El Paso.

The clown had illegally crossed the border into the United States but had a change of heart at the very end of his overland journey through Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico. The clown told the pilot he had worked his clown routine for food, board and money as he slowly made his way to the United States, but now wanted to go home.

"He just decided he made a mistake and wanted to be back with his family," border patrol officer Casey said. "He seemed in pretty good spirits. He was quite funny." (. . .But not funny enough, obviously.)

Next issue: the mysteries of the French explained!!!

 

Published 2/24/97

PLANET PROCTOR
1996/2002 by Phil Proctor