Sunday, October 30, 2005

The lost art of queueing

An Englishman in Osaka comments on the lost art of queueing back in Blighty (and the found art of cross dressing).

He points out it is alive and well in Japan. If this is true, it is a development of the most profound historical importance, threatening the very foundations of what it means to be English. I quote George Mikes and Nicolas Bentley's classic 1946 account of Englishness "How to be an Alien" (the text of the book is here, but half the fun is the illustrations ):

Get thee behind me
Queueing is the national passion of an otherwise dispassionate race. The English are rather shy about it, and deny that they adore it.

On the Continent, if people are waiting at a bus-stop they loiter around in a seemingly vague fashion. When the bus arrives they make a dash for it; most of them leave by the bus and a lucky minority is taken away by an elegant black ambulance car. An Englishman, even if he is alone, forms an orderly queue of one.

The biggest and most attractive advertisements in front of cinemas tell people: Queue here for 4/6; Queue here for 9/3; Queue here for 16/8 (inclusive of tax). Those cinemas which do not put out these queueing signs do not do good business at all.

At week-ends an Englishman queues up at the bus-stop, travels out to Richmond, queues up for a boat, then queues up for tea, then queues up for ice cream, then joins a few more odd queues just for the sake of the fun of it, then queues up at the bus-stop and has the time of his life.

Many English families spend lovely evenings at home just by queueing up for a few hours, and the parents are very sad when the children leave them and queue up for going to bed."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

He doesn't look very English though