I'm reading a book called "Watching The English" which I stole from my girlfriend. I say stole but I do of course mean borrow. It's a good little book which analyses the mannerisms and habits of English people. It's pop anthropology I suppose.
The reason it came to my attention is that my girlfriend, who reads my blog, mentioned a comment I made about saying sorry to people when I bump into them. According to this book I'm here displaying a common very 'English' trait. In fact the book goes on to say that amongst the English it's almost universal for people to do that. I wish it was. I'm lost count of the number of times I've said sorry to someone because they bumped into me and then haven't got a polite "sorry" in return.
In fact I'd like to know how I could go about recalling some of the "sorry"'s I've given out over the years.
"Oops - sorry about that" I mutter although it wasn't actually my fault.
"Ump" returns the fat bloke who just trod on my toe.
"Erm... excuse me mate, I just said sorry... what's the magic word?"
"?" he replies using only his face.
"Right, well if you're going to be like that you fat cu#t I'll have my sorry back thankyou very much. Good Chri#t the path to enlightenment is just riddled with fu#knuts."
"Uh?" he tries to say as I realise I'm harrasing a deaf/dumb/disabled bloke.
Yes, well, perhaps not. Social convention is something I've always been rubbish at and I'm treating this book as a sort of guide to how to behave. It talks about why we talk about the weather, something I've never, until recently, done. In fact talking about the weather is a good way of talking to people. I never understood all that. I've always been a little confused about things like that.
A good example of this is the fact that I never really understood that the "how are you, mate" question was ment to be answered swiftly with the same question. I sussed it out when I was about 16-17 and a very attractive girl at my school asked me how I was. I think I'd been gazing lovingly at her as she got on the bus and this was probably one of the only times she talked to me. As a result I thought - "great here's my chance!" and then embarked on a half hour lecture entitled: How is Nick Margerrison?.
She interrupted me just as I'd really started to get going with the following phrase: "okay mate, I was only asking".
It's hard to continue a potential wooing when you're as bright red as I went in the next few seconds.