Rule Britannia

Lady Penelope

Having just returned from the UK after attending a one-week university course to notch up a few CPD points, coupled with attendance of a friend’s engagement party to gather a few points of the brownie variant, I took today to reflect on my experience and the things I’ve missed, whilst recovering in bed from the after effects of a particularly bad case of man-flu.

It was the first time I’d be back to the UK since 2009 and I was looking forward to the visit. The flight up, Virgin Atlantic naturally, was great; just over 100-odd people on-board the jumbo jet and 3 seats to me, myself and I. I managed a record breaking 7 hours of sleep on the 11 hour flight, dinner, breakfast and 1.75 movies before the plane hit the tarmac at a chilly London Heathrow. Looking out of the window, there was snow covering the airport, my past work stomping ground. The service teams were already out de-icing the scheduled early morning flights and the airport was a hive of activity. Ahhh, the memories.

Determined to not give the impression that I’d turned into a complete sissy during my exposure to ample levels of vitamin D, heat and 360 days of guaranteed sunshine in South Africa, I walked off the plane wearing no more than a t-shirt and a pair of jeans – Who Da Man! I could see that many of the jacketed and gloved Heathrow natives were giving me odd looks (it was -6 degrees Celsius). I was unequivocally still “well ‘aard” (cue the double-arm chest flex), although less so by the time I’d reached the car park.

After a few short sprints around London suburbia in a convertible with its roof down and the absence of some much needed lip-ice (aka chapstick), I thought it was high time I invested in some new warm weather gear. Nothing that a trip into central London and more specifically, Covent Garden (using safe and efficient public transport) couldn’t sort. I perused through the streets of shops, popping into the Superdry store, Selfridges (note the trendy name dropping) and some non-descript jeans stores. Why non-descript you may ask? This is mainly due to the fact that anyone who is anyone in South Africa knows and would attempt to pull off the ‘slim-fit bootcut jeans’ look; reputable shops should stock them (and partly due to the fact that I need to protect my identity). Skinny jeans, amongst males, are only worn by the Emo Crew. A young female shop assistant came over to assist, obviously noting my perplexed looked and matter-of-factly informed me that jeans of the style I was currently modelling were ‘in’ about 3 years back. The new look was skinny and coloured, carrot, or straight cut – the latter my dad still wears! How could this be labelled as ‘in’?! (not that he wouldn’t be happy that he was considered trendy on the back-around).

I was obviously showing my age, but to demonstrate that I was still the height of fashion and cool, I picked up a pair of jeans and asked for my size, which they thankfully didn’t have, as the discounted price was an eye watering 200 squid. Not to be discouraged by the ‘in’ price tag, I walked back to the wall display and started perusing the cords, only to be told that I was now looking at the ladies’ section. My Bubble Pop Electric of cool had been burst, much to my friend’s amusement and that of everyone he told thereafter. To Elastoplast over my sores, I bought myself a nice new Superdry jacket, i.e. the expensive one without the cipher of zippers attached. And now I’m back in the game!

Equipped with my new jacket, some of the freshest Converse on the shelves of Soletrader and a new going-out shirt, I felt ready to check into Guanabara – one of my favourite London clubs, and the stage for my friend’s Brazilian-themed engagement party. I had missed the place; what with its Capoeira displays, bongo drums and mojitos. I assumed that it must have been the elite of society who were supporting the £7 cocktail price tags (approximately Rand 85 in funny money) considering that there was a recession to be found in the short-term memory banks of the general public.

My week at university reminded me of my days as a student – the lecturers in dark suits, waiting for someone to hand them a bottle of Head and Shoulders Anti-dandruff shampoo, the rows of plague ridden foreign students who would pose questions in an ancient English dialect, which would only make sense if you had a mirror handy, and finally the long days spent in classrooms. My last memory is slightly faded, however you read (and re-read) it correctly. 9am until 5:30, Monday through Friday! I was more braindead in the evenings than a fish which had just had its head battered with a priest (a tool used to administer the ‘last rights’ to a fish). Don’t say that you never learn anything reading my blog.

Apart from the absence of ‘free periods’ I enjoyed the experience immensely; eating McVitie’s chocolate digestives over tea during morning break sessions, closely followed by the eating more biscuits in the afternoons’ break sessions and the interaction in class with industry professionals and the keener of the student breed (yes, even the Frenchies). In the evenings we (myself and colleagues) retired to our country pub lodgings, where we sipped Guinness and ate KP Dry Roasted Peanuts. It may surprise you to know that the pub and university coffee shop both had free and fast WiFi. Absolutely revolutionary, considering Mugg and Bean in South Africa offer you the first 15 minutes without charge, should you be able to connect, and ‘fast’ in UK terms is far superior to Telkom’s 384kbps definition.

Not surprisingly, the coughing and sneezing of our younger classroom colleagues caught up with me by week’s end. I was teetering on the brink of a man-flu episode on my return to London and only managed to hold it together because of another great British invention, Night Nurse. For those of you who don’t know, this is a radioactively green coloured liquid medicine containing 1000mg of paracetamol, promethazine and dextromethorphan (coupled with some alcohol) and in my mind is the wonder drug for people suffering with flu. It causes notable drowsiness, thus ensuring that you get a better night’s sleep, which is especially good on a long return flight to South Africa when you are surrounded by not one, but four crying babies. Night Nurse – I salute you!

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