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Sino-Canadian International College, Guangxi University, Online English Lesson Plans, Lesson Material and Ideas
for Semester 2 Reading Lessons...
magazines will often advertise themselves as being devoted to sport
and leisure. This is puzzling for to the English sport is seldom
The reason they are
lumped together can only be that, in English eyes, leisure
activities share with sport the element of competition so essential
to the English way of life. Leisure is a challenge and one must make
one's own better than anyone else's.
The high flying
executive who plays with model helicopters on the Common is
subconsciously waiting for another high flier with similar toys to
compete with. The man who cleans his car in a suburban street on a
Sunday morning is really running a polishing race with his
neighbours with every grunting sweep of the chamois leather.
Even a peaceful pint
in the pub can easily turn into a drinking competition if the right
adversary turns up.
When bad weather
threatens, the English, unlike other people, do not invariably take
shelter in their houses. For heavy weather is the ultimate adversary
- a worthy and familiar opponent.
Wrapped from head to
foot in waterproof clothing, they set out on extended hikes, best
feet forward, carrying maps in little plastic bags around their
necks. Up hill and down dale, the English follow vehemently
protected footpaths on these route marches which they deceptively
refer to as "rambles".
forays of this kind are a particular English favourite. In summer
months they will travel miles to the Lake District, where rain can
be almost guaranteed, to pit their stamina against the worst that
nature can throw at them.
So popular are these
struggles against the elements that some enterprising individuals
have formulated courses in physical discomfort in remote and
inhospitable areas of the British Isles where other English people
pay substantial fees to be assured of a serious challenge.
These courses, posing
under such romantic titles as "Survival", are pursued for
their perceived character building qualities. The stiffening of
upper lips is guaranteed.
sparing no expense, will send their executives away for days on end
to play these games. The assumption is that a man or woman who can
shine in physical adversity will also excel in stressful business
struggles. It never occurs to these companies to sack all their
employees and take on the men who run the courses instead.
However they justify
these excesses, the fact is that the English just love a physical
challenge and eschew comfort as sybaritic. Even in a potentially
comfortable situation in the Mediterranean sun, they will pit their
white skins against its harmful rays until the evening comes and
they are thoroughly burnt.
are devoted to sports of all kinds. Their children have always been
trained from the earliest age to take them seriously. Even today in
schools up and down the country little boys and girls in shorts are
exhorted to "play the game!" by their elders and betters
who will come down heavily on "slacking" whenever they see
Whether it be
football, rugby, hockey or any other team game, they start young and
carry on, barring accidents, until they have to hang up their boots
and watch others doing it.
This they do with
boundless enthusiasm and extremely vocally in spectator stands or
from touchlines, often in sub-zero temperatures or force ten gales
with the ever-present threat of a downpour. Nothing can dampen their
ardour. Even at night they carry on watching in stadiums bright with
the English is not just a game. It is a symbol - a twenty-two man
personification of all English beliefs and philosophies. Ignore it
at your peril.
If you do you could
be "on a sticky wicket". You might then be accused of not
having put your "best foot forward" and of not
"playing a straight bat", both hallmarks of the bounder.
Cricket is the
national summer pastime of the English race. Visitors to England
would have to be blind not to spot at least one weekend cricket
match in their travels. And even the blind cannot avoid the coverage
of international matches which dribbles out of radios in every
public place throughout the season. It is inescapable. On every
village green or television screen, a group of men, dressed in
white, stand around waiting for something to happen.
The English invented
cricket 750 years ago and are fiercely proprietarily about it. Its
laws are one of the great mysteries of life, passed on among the
initiated in a coded language. In the past they took the game all
over the world and always won. Gradually, though, other nations'
teams have got better at it, until now the English stand a jolly
good chance of being beaten wherever they go.
happens, the English get very heated. They accuse everyone in sight
of having cheated: of tampering with the ball by roughing up the
surface (so that it behaves in an irregular fashion); of shaving the
head to reduce wind-resistance on the run-in; of
"sledging" (hurling abuse at the batsman so as to put him
off his stroke); of wearing the wrong clothes, and of playing too
fast for a one-day match - all of which they vigorously complain is
just "not cricket".
Games with Animals
adore horses and dogs to such an extent that they even involve them
as partners in some of their sports. Over the centuries these
animals have proved themselves admirable assistants in the
eradication of foxes and specially-bred game birds.
Although they are
seen as archetypal English pastimes, field or "blood"
sports have always been the preserve of the rich few - not for the
masses. But one animal sport everyone enjoys enormously is racing
horses. Wherever and whenever racing takes place, all strata of
English society congregate, brought together by a common enthusiasm
for that magic combination - horses, the great outdoors, and
Once a year
most English families take an extended holiday. Until air travel
became more common these family holidays were almost always spent in
one of the many English seaside resorts.
During July and
August convoys of Austins, Rovers and Fords would snake their way
down winding English lanes to seaside towns. Here shops on the
seafront sold buckets, spades, lilos, candy floss, toffee apples,
seaside rock, risqué postcards, fish and chips and brightly-coloured
canvas wind breaks.
Pitching their little
camps on the beach, English families spent days on end appearing to
enjoy melting ice creams, leaking thermos flasks and sand in
Rain on at least half
the days could be guaranteed. But then there were the delights of
the seaside pier. Here the maritime race enjoyed all the sensations
of going to sea without being seasick or, worse, meeting any
Nowadays the English
start their holidays at Luton, Gatwick, Stanstead, Manchester,
Birmingham or Heathrow airports and fly over those winding English
lanes, bound for Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Florida or almost anywhere
where they can still be guaranteed amusement arcades, risque
postcards to send home, the reassuring smell of onions frying, and
fish and chips.
Here they carry on
just as if they were still in Bognor Regis, Blackpool or Brighton.
They stick together, ignoring the existence of the natives, stake
out corners of the beach and spend most of the day lying in the sun.
At night they drink, dance, and throw up in discotheques
thoughtfully provided for the purpose by the locals.
At the end of the
holiday, the English return home with burnt noses, diarrhea and
alcohol poisoning but otherwise ready to face any challenge that
life can throw at them.
Eating & Drinking
once perceived food more as fuel for the body than as something to
be enjoyed for its own sake. Consequently they never really applied
themselves to the art of cooking, until they became aware of the
sheer awfulness of their own cuisine.
Of course it is not
all dust and ashes. The rest of the world does acknowledge the
supremacy of the great English breakfast (chosen from bacon, eggs,
sausages, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, potatoes, kippers, kedgeree
and so on) and French chefs tacitly compliment them on their
"roast beef" which is found the world over. Universally
acclaimed, too, are their puddings - steamed jam roll and apple
crumble. The unwary should take care with "Yorkshire" and
"black" puddings. Neither is quite what it seems. The
first is baked batter eaten with roast beef, and the second a
ferocious blood sausage, taken, by the brave, at breakfast.
On the whole, England
has always been, culinary speaking, the underdog. The puritan
backlash is ever present. "Good plain cooking" and
"honest simple fare" continue to be held in semi-religious
awe in many quarters, with the clear implication that complicated
and pretty dishes are neither good nor honest.
continental habits have insinuated themselves, not least in the
matter of eating out. Restaurants have proliferated and, as the
interest in foreign food has grown, so have the choices. The
supremacy of French and Italian fare is now challenged by others -
Thai, Chinese, Mexican, Spanish, Russian, American.
There are even
restaurants specialising in English food. One highly successful
example in London calls itself "School Dinners". There
tired and overwrought businessmen can go and enjoy such nursery fare
as rice pudding and "spotted dick" all served by
well-developed girls wearing school uniforms.
have been accused of starting life two drinks behind the rest of the
world. This is a shame, for they have an extraordinary expertise in
the matter of alcoholic beverages.
While the charge of
sophistication has never been levelled at English food, the English
have consumed it for hundreds of years accompanied by a bewildering
range of the world's finest wines.
The best ones from
France have always been shipped over the Channel in bulk for the
English to drink and enjoy. For centuries they have imported the
lion's share of Portugal's port and Spain's sherry in addition to
brewing their own pale imitations of them.
Of the more
successful native English drinks, English ale has now been partially
eclipsed in popularity by lighter lagers from the Continent and the
antipodes. But for years beer was one of the country's greatest
sources of pride and even today there is still a sizeable number of
local breweries producing regional beers which are sold extensively
in pubs up and down the land.
The catalogue of
English alcoholic triumphs continues with London Gin. This is drunk
all over the world along with Indian (English Imperial) tonic water
and provides the base for thousands of cocktails. Whisky, of course,
comes from Scotland but the English consider it peculiarly their
own, keeping the choicest malts for themselves, perhaps because they
do not want the rest of the world to get more than two drinks ahead
What is Sold Where
Until a few
years ago the English used to shop at their local greengrocer,
butcher, baker and so on. Now these small shops have all but
capitulated as their customers pile into their cars and get
everything they need at huge out-of-town-centre hangars filled with
all their hearts' desires.
The only shops to
have survived the march of the supermarkets in any numbers are the
corner shops, known in some quarters as "Patelleries"
since so many of them are run by Ugandan Asian immigrant families.
These corner shops are often supermarkets in miniature and sell
anything from sweets to sweat bands, nappies to newspapers. Many of
them are also open all day and half the night.
In all this cultural
upheaval, there appears to be only one golden rule. You can get
anything you need in very small or very big shops and nothing in
Health and Hygiene
are fascinated by their livers, the Germans by their digestive
systems and the Spanish by their blood. To the English, none of
these have anything like the appeal of the bowels.
childhood, the English are brought up to take a keen interest in the
regularity and consistency of their bowel movements. The day that
does not start with a satisfactory visit to the lavatory starts on
the wrong foot, and the English child who fails in this morning duty
is deemed to show signs of "crankiness" or to have
"got out of bed on the wrong side". It is a preoccupation
that lasts for life.
continental neighbours breakfast on pastries and jam, the English
tuck in to bowls of cereal, rich in fibre and advertising their
efficacy through such names as "Force" or "All
Correctives for bowel
disorders throng English bathroom shelves and old-fashioned remedies
continue to sell well. "Carter's Little Liver Pills"
promise to cure "that out-of-sorts feeling due to
constipation". "Califig - Syrup of Figs" is billed as
an effective laxative for all the family. Both are less violent and
unpleasant than their no-nonsense rival in shirt-sleeves - good
old-fashioned Castor Oil.
To correct the
effects of over-indulgence in one of the above preparations,
"looseness" as the English term it, there is another
splendid proprietary medicine. The origins of "J.Collis
Browne's Chlorodyne" have become obscured by time. The good
doctor's patients obviously got about a bit. One of the ecstatic
endorsements accompanying his little bottles boasts: "I have
even used chlorodyne with great effect on Mont Blanc."
Reasonably steady on
home ground, English bowels suffer exquisitely abroad. Thanks to the
appalling nature of local food and water, the English traveller
constantly runs into bowel problems. From "Delhi-belly" to
"Montezuma's Revenge" or The Aztec Quickstep' they strike
him or her in every far-flung corner of the earth.
Many of the English
juggle with laxatives and binding agents all their lives in the hope
of one day returning to that blissful childhood state when an adult
would nod approvingly at the first droppings of the day. For many of
them this faecal nirvana is never reached.
None of them can be
persuaded to flirt with the ubiquitous suppository so beloved of
Europeans. While the French will even treat a headache with one, the
English doctor their bowels with pills and prunes.
With more serious
illnesses, the English are at their most stoic. Not for them the
wailing and gnashing of teeth heard in foreign hospitals. Fortitude
in the face of adversity is the thing. Remember Queen Victoria's
dying words: "I feel a little better..."
When it comes
to hygiene, the English are traditionally inclined. Showers are
gaining in popularity but in most English houses the bath still
Whilst the rest of
the world looks on horrified, the English wallow in baths filled
with their own dirt and diluted with warm water. But then they do
use more soap than any other nation, which, as far as they are
concerned, counts for a lot. For as every English person knows,
other nations, especially the French, just put on more scent when
they start to smell.