Foreign affairs

27Aug14

So, after five years of domestic bliss, my housemate is abandoning London and moving back Germany. She’s going about it an interesting way. Her friends back home keep making ‘jokes’ about how they’ll have to help reprogramme her, purge off that Englishness etc. Nothing more guaranteed to raise her hackles, of course, but as her hackles rise, so do my eyebrows. See, when I moved back from Ireland, I got rid of a lot of stuff. She’s doing the opposite, and mostly because of that awful Englishness that will have to go. You know those weird square pillows they have in France/Germany/Italy? Chances are you have happened upon them in a hotel/hostel/hellhole [delete according to budget] and wondered how the natives use them when surely the oblong shape favoured across these islands is the more practical. It is. The natives reportedly spend time each night folding, punching and plumping to get the optimum (oblong) shape. So Carina, spotting the quicker way, is returning to her homeland with Brit/Irish pillows and cases to match.

This I can understand. Less easy to fathom is the acquisition of the fire surround. See, in Germany they don’t have fireplaces, and when one has seen a fire surround used as a novelty bookcase in an interior-design magazine in the UK, one is all too prone to setting one’s heart on recreating said effect. Not me, obvs. I couldn’t give a rat’s about interior-design effects, certainly not enough to seek out, purchase and then collect a solid oak fire surround from East Finchley, on my own, by tube. It was far bigger than she expected, but the gentlemen of London rose to the occasion magnificently, helping her up and down stairs, on and off tube trains, across roads etc.
Her last Prince Charming was a strapping Polish bloke who collared her at her home tube station and declared that wherever she was going, he wasn’t going to let her carry it one step of the way. What a sweetheart! Off they walked, he carrying the mighty oak, she wheeling his bike. During the inevitable chitchat, conversation turned to the date of the fireplace – 1930s. Second World War, PolishBloke said dreamily. He wished he’d been alive then because he would been in the army and would have made it his business to shoot loads of Germans. Awwwwkward. Even worse when he asked where she was from. ‘Holland,’ she said brightly. She couldn’t bear to embarrass him after he’d been so sweet, she later admitted.

When embarrassment is worse than death, yeah, you’ve probably been in England for too long.

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