Thursday, May 22, 2008

Nice detective work

Sometimes I try to conceal that I am an anglophile for coolness purposes. Mostly I don't. Ever since Prince Charles and Diana married when I was a TEN YEAR OLD GIRL and about to move to England for awhile, I have been a goner. When Diana came along I dropped all previous girl crushes and was all, Laura Ingalls WHO? I thought I knew the culture, you know? I lecture my friends about how to prepare tea correctly and I read the BBC news and I am a proud alum of a primary school where I wore a school uniform (!). As a visiting college student I stopped wearing windbreakers so I could blend in and went for curries and learned about toasties and EVERYTHING. And seriously, history, rain, a monarchy, chocolate, and a national health care system? What else could one possibly want? I pretty much thought that I was really, basically, a British person trapped in an American body.

On my Netflix, I almost exclusively rent British television series. And when I say "almost exclusively" I mean "exclusively." I have gone a little nuts with it lately, especially since Bubba has woken up several nights in a row and listening to British television seems to soothe him back to sleep and make my own sleep deprivation a little more bearable (does this make me a bad mother?)

But I am here today to tell you that there is more to British culture than I ever knew. It slowly dawned on me after the umpteenth mystery show where someone visiting someone else in hospital ("in hospital" --see how culturally savvy I am?) brings grapes along. The first time I was all, oh, that detective brought grapes to his deputy who took a bullet for him, that was nice. The next time I was all, are they grapes in that bag the detective's secretary is bringing him? Then, THEN, when the lady who has been concealing her advanced lung cancer from everyone and collapses in the taxi and the detective goes to visit her and she says, where's my grapes, I started to wonder if there was a THEME going on here. If indeed I had stumbled upon a CUSTOM. Then when the mean and therefore dispensable detective who has been mauled by a crazed townsperson signals his return to life by asking his visiting co-detectives, why are you eating my grapes, I knew it was time for action.

So being of a sharp scientific mind (oh that? that's just Jeff howling with laughter in the next room) I figured I better take this one to the people. So I checked with both my friend Google and my British friend Rachel and have confirmed that yes, bringing grapes to someone in hospital is indeed a tradition. Aren't I clever? It only took seventeen or so cultural references, but I got it. I'm one step closer to peeling back the cultural layers of the onion of my spiritual home, to being really at the heart of things.

Just passing along the knowledge as I get it. I consider it my duty.

21 comments:

Melissa said...

Can you imagine if you'd brought someone flowers or a fruit basket? Or a fruit basket WITHOUT grapes??? -How embarrassing.

wheelsonthebus said...

"And seriously, history, rain, a monarchy, chocolate, and a national health care system? What else could one possibly want?"

Winters with more than an hour of sunshine a week, a health care system that actually works, and people who sometimes smile. THat's just for starters, though...

(Not so much an anglophile after living there.)

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I did not know that. Thanks.

Vanessa said...

I had no idea about the grapes. I wonder if they have some sort of anti-oxidant healing power?

lapoflux said...

I have obviously read too many Brit novels - I thought that brining grapes to someone in the hospital was normal (or is that because I live in a commonwealth country? Now I am confused...)
Now I feel like an episode of Inspector Morse...

hippyhappyhay said...

Well, next time I am visiting a friend in hospital in Britain, I'll know just what to bring :)

Saucy said...

Let them eat grapes.

Oh, and do you favour the British spelling of words like neighbour and honour?

Isabel said...

I KNOW. We were watching a British film (can't remember which) last year and I FINALLY put it together. Grapes!?! Isn't that funny?

I suppose it's no more arbitrary than, say, giving people extruded marshmallow turds on Easter but, still.

FYI: You are now the #1 hit when Googling "The British bring grapes to the hospital." Well played, old chap.

Childlife said...

Way to go, Agatha! ;) Very refined of you to end with a cup of tea too... :D

liv said...

yes, and then there's this small matter of the cultural superiority and happiness one feels when one is around the English. just yesterday, i was at a farm with my children--all very rural, you know--and then there's burly Graham, who in his charming, country way is explaining to me how he imported his old Land Rover 100 from Africa just 4 years ago. next to the Barbour coats and the wellies in the mudroom while drinking a Newcastle...well, it was so very too too.

Family Adventure said...

Grapes are custom in Scandinavia, too. In case you ever make it further east....(didn't think so).

Heidi :)

Minnesota Matron said...

Grapes. How odd. Is 'odd' more Brit than weird or strange? Flat and lift -- see? The Matron knows two English words.

Jennifer said...

I used to imagine I was Princess Diana's long lost...niece, or something. Oh, the daydreams of a ten year old girl. And yet I've never known about the grapes?!!

HRH said...

I loved this! And the grape connection...genius.

I remember vividly staying up all night to watch the wedding...oh, THE wedding. Magic.

I love visiting. LOVE it, but don't think I could live there for the very reasons you mentioned...well, I could tolerate the chocolate on a daily basis...

All Adither said...

I always wonder why we put a 'the' in front of hospital and university. It's a little overdone if you ask me.

Mary Alice said...

You are observant. What an interesting custom. Here we just bring banana bread to new neighbors.

Mac and Cheese said...

My mom is British yet I have never heard of the grape custom.

Do you watch Dr. Who, too?

katrin said...

I spent 14 years living in London ( 11- 25) and I never fail to get a chuckle out of the word play and cultural references that Americans don't get. How can they? There's a lot of American word play the Brits don't get either, only it's usually not of the elevated-thinking, fancy-pants, wry humor sort.

I just published a book called Mothers Need Time Outs, Too and it's distributed internationally, including in the UK. We had a major article in the Telegraph, and it was a really good one.

Afetr reading it, instead of saying it was good, a friend said, "And did you see how they kept saying MUM? Isn't that so SWEET?"

So sometimes the poor English come across as twee rather than hoity toity. You win some you lose some.

Katrin
www.momstimeouts.com

countrymouse said...

omigosh--I can *so* see me speaking about grapes and British hospitals with authority the next time I'm out in the world! Thanks : )

windowbus said...

as i don't have a tele to watch ;-) i am just now catching up on all the brit detective series, and noticed that same thing! morse, frost, dalziel and pascoe, and more, all with the grapes! was gratified to find all the other perplexed fans. on one site they said it was because the brits are terrified of constipation and it is an inside, haha, joke. tah

syhcool said...

Next, do the same thing for the pandora jewerly right front side of the shirt.Once you have done Pandora Bangles both front sides of the shirt, you then will need pandora bead to do the back of the shirt. Take the shirt and place the back of the discount pandora shirt so that the direct middle is on the ironing board. The pandora sale back collar of the shirt should be right up at the edge discount pandora charms of the "head" of the ironing board or even slightly hanging off. Pull the bottom buy pandora bracelets of the shirt to create that taught resistance again and pandora beads charms begin to spray the shirt and iron in the opposite direction of pandora earrings the pull.