Ernest Cassara

Jingle All The Way!

Since our return from London, I have read that the Metropolitan Police (Scotland Yard) are handing out bells to attach to shopping bags, so, if thieves try to make off with someone’s possession, he/she will be alerted.  This is to discourage pickpockets on busy shopping streets, such as Oxford and Marylebone High Street.  Two streets, by the way, that my Better Half deplores, because of the mobs of shoppers.  A people watcher, such as myself, enjoys them immensely!

A Bunch of Bloody Foreigners!

One of the more enjoyable television programs we watched in London was on Channel 4 - which usually does a great job.  It raised the question of how British are the British.  The ads for the program were great.  They raised the question as to whether the Brits are pure blooded, or a bunch of “bloody foreigners.” One of the ads ran: “100% English or Sub-Saharan African with a hint of gypsy? Channel 4 investigates.”

Many folks allowed their DNA to be tested, and, what was delightful was that some of the folks who are most vehement against the “invasion” of the U.K. by foreigners were revealed to be not exactly true blue Brits themselves.

A Creationist’s Nightmare

I am not at all sure how many Creationists there are in the U. K., but, for those who are, it must be a nightmare every time they reach into their purses.

As you would expect, the image of the queen is on every bank note, but the reverse side features the face of a prominent Briton.  The five pound note features Elizabeth Fry, 1780-1845.   The twenty pound note, the handsome face of the great composer Sir Edward Elgar, 1851-1934.  The ten pound note carries the visage of Charles Darwin, 1809-1882.  I suppose British Creationists could avoid that note by carrying fives. Carrying  ten pounds in one pound coins adds considerable weight to one’s purse or pocket.  (The U. K. did away with a one pound note in the 1980s, replacing it with a coin, which is heavier than any other coin, so as not to be mistaken for it.)

Can’t tell you about the faces on larger bills, for this penurious observer, and the group with which he traveled this trip, did not have anything larger than a twenty.

By the way, as I handed a five pound note to a clerk at Waterstone’s Bookstore on Gower Street, in the bosom of the University of London, I asked who “Elizabeth Fey” was.  He corrected my pronunciation - not “fay,” but “fee.”  However, he could not tell me who she was, nor could his colleagues. As is true of so many questions these days, with some searching, Google provided the answer: The name was actually Fry, her signature on the note easily misread.  She was a reformer.

I think it charming that pound sterling notes - unlike American notes, which feature the visages of politicians - celebrate the accomplishments of such as Charles Darwin.

Duties of the Queen

Although there is a republican movement in Britain, it has not gotten very far in its campaign to do away with the monarchy.  As a foreigner, of course, it is none of my business, but, it has struck me that the monarchy is a great tourist attraction.  Mobs show up at Buckingham Palace to witness the changing of the guard.  And, streets are mobbed when the queen travels in an antique carriage to such events as the opening of Parliament.

Even the queen got involved with the release of the new 007 movie. On the release of “Casino Royale,” the latest James Bond, Daniel Craig, was shown on television being received by Elizabeth.

A Fast Food Restaurant That Brings A Smile to the Face

Every time I pass a Pret A Manger, I smile.  You may remember that the French have an academy whose task it is to preserve the purity of the language.  Seeing how so many American terms have entered German - which I speak, if haltingly - I sympathize with the French.

When “fast food” was entering the French language, the Academy ruled that it should be banished and the French equivalent should be used: Pret a Manger.

Some enterprising Brits immediately founded a chain with that name.  When, at a meeting of the South Place Ethical Society,  I mentioned this as a good example of British ingenuity, a fellow in the group spoke up, saying, “That is not a French restaurant,” which, of course, I realized.

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Harvard Square Commentary, December 4, 2006