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Stuff Brits Like – A Guide to What’s Great about Great Britain

What an interesting way to discuss a culture. This book is well written and set out, making it easy to take in the details. Whether you agree or disagree with some of the claims that the author has made, he has written with clarity and an observer’s eye for detail.

Instead of setting this book out as an historical/ geographical/ sociological documentary, the author has chosen to write mini chapters or snippets of information which capture all of the areas above.

There are about 100 mini chapters, each lasting about two and a half pages, with titles such as “Talking about the weather, British History, Offal, Sarcasm, Puns, Cross Dressing, Comedy, Cricket and Drawing Willies on Things”. There are too many headings to list, but the range is as broad as it is long.

Each segment is informative, historically accurate (Stonehenge), witty and perceptive. For example, on the section on Libraries, the author says, “They are a means by which people of meagre resources – people of any resources – can feast on the riches of culture and community whenever they wish (providing all the popular books haven’t been taken out).”

There is a section on Sheds, mentioning the love of gardening many British people share. However there are many other ways sheds are used, and the need for men to have a place to potter, is evident.

At the end of each section there is an insert which says,  “What to say” and “What not to say”, a guide for visitors. The inserts of what to say for sheds, suggests the visitor says, “My shed is also a fully working dental surgery.” What not to say is, “And where does your wife put her hobbies?”

This is a delightful book to read, and is enhanced by the suggestions of what to say and what not to say at the end of each chapter. It is amazing how intimate and detailed the facts are, when encapsulated in such short and humorous passages.

The society is obviously very dear to the author’s heart. He covers many areas and issues, from Dr Who to The British Cheese Board, and to strange traditions that have their origins lost in time. His thought provoking comments on the film “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” show how it fitted into the social movement of the time and has become a classic film.

The last segment is quite witty and very helpful for overseas travellers. It talks about “Slang and making up words.” For example, “Bawbag means scrotum, but is mainly used as an all-purpose insult”. The examples are quite extensive and include a few that most of us wouldn’t know.

If you are travelling to Great Britain, this would be an interesting accessory for your trip. If you just want a fun read and some laughs, this will be sure to fit the bill.

AuthorFraser McAlpine
PublisherNicholas Brealey