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humour, The way I see it

Give us a kiss!

kissing policemen

Has anybody seen those appalling posters on Facebook about the wonders of being British? Something along the lines of how we’d rather walk a mile in tight shoes than complain about our restaurant food, or how we’d probably describe a nuclear strike as a ‘bit warm’? About how marvellously modest and unassuming we are?? I mean, has the person who wrote that ever heard of Jeremy Clarkson? Boris Johnson? Brian Blessed? Or the fans of any football club you care to mention? (I suppose you could make a case for the modesty of Millwall supporters, whose motto is ‘no one likes us, we don’t care’ but only if you’d never heard them in full cry).

Anyway, I have been thinking about Britishness lately because I have just come back from France. And my topic du jour is kissing. We are all kissing each other’s cheeks in Britain now, and I blame the French. Time was, and I’m not that decrepit, when you only kissed your mum and dad. And, possibly, whiskery aunties. And then just a swift peck, mind you, none of this random face pressing that we all seem to be going for these days. No. Back then, we British (if I can get all Facebook postery) made do with a swift handshake and a mumbled hello. In fact, that probably counted as rather imaginative foreplay back in the day.

When I was 17 I was taken by my sister in law (French) to stay in Bordeaux for a week. When we got off the plane an entire phalanx of relatives were lined up (some actually wearing berets) and we all solemnly kissed each other. Took ages. (I have to say at this point, although it is somewhat off piste, that during this visit I was taken to meet some great uncle who was in hospital. He was a lovely, ancient man, aged about 804, tucked tightly into a spotless bed; and he too was wearing a beret. And, naturally enough, we all kissed him. Took ages.

Years later I went to see a friend in France who had teenage children. And get this, when they brought friends home, they all came up to us and kissed us. I was charmed, and somewhat staggered. I could, in no circumstances, think of being approached in Britain by a strange teenager who wanted to kiss me politely on the cheek and wish me good day.

And yet, that day may not be far off. Even now, in the South East, people who’ve known each other for quite a long time are kissing each other when they meet (except my friend Deborah, who refuses to give in to any of this continental canoodling and is hoisting the flag for traditional British circumspection). Brothers and sisters are kissing each other when they greet (yes, really) and er, quite a few other people in situations I can’t think of at the moment. The disease has certainly reached the midlands, but the jury is out on whether it will sweep Yorkshire (it’s the way they stare at you there which kind of brings you to a halt before you properly get to grips with your intended target, and the only way you can alleviate any possible embarrassment is to stop before you get any closer, lift your arms really expansively and say, ‘fancy a pint?’)

Still, think on this. A couple of years ago I was sitting on a train in a French railway station watching out of the window as an inspector tried to pacify a surging crowd of people whose train’s departure had been delayed. Suddenly, down the steps on to the platform came the boss of the whole shebang. Big hat, gold braid, the lot. He marched up to the inspector. The people gesticulated. (As they do.) I thought there was going to be a riot. The inspector turned to his boss. His boss looked at him. And yes. They kissed. Both cheeks. And suddenly, everything was fine. The people got on the train, the inspector got on the train and the boss waved them off as it hooted down the track.

Maybe if it has that kind of effect, we shouldn’t be so uptight. Anyone up for a kiss? Mr Clarkson? Boris?

Picture by Banksy, courtesy of Creative Commons at https://www.flickr.com/photos/leonsteber/1154551362/

About elainecanham

I started blogging because I'm a writer, and I thought I ought to. Now I realise that I blog because I lwant to; even when I can't think of much to say. I do a lot of work for local businesses - get in touch if you like my style.


37 thoughts on “Give us a kiss!

  1. Welcome back Elaine! The whole kissing thing is a confusion and I don’t like it. I particularly don’t understand the way it’s crept into business too. I like my clients but don’t feel a pressing need to get cheek-to-cheek with (most of) them… 😉

    Posted by Jools | August 20, 2015, 1:53 pm
    • Thanks Jools. Yes, kissing people you want to be formal with, is weird. Even if your name is General De Gaulle… Which it isn’t.

      Posted by elainecanham | August 20, 2015, 2:17 pm
  2. Good Gawd! It makes one glad to be on the pension. I hope this kissing thing doesn’t catch on around the Empire.

    Posted by Bruce Goodman | August 19, 2015, 7:57 pm
  3. Hugs for greetings and goodbyes to friends and family and people I haven’t seen in a while. No kisses. I kiss my kids, kiss the hubs but not the dog ‘cos he likes to get up close and personal with bits of his anatomy and dubious streaks on the ground that I don’t want to think of near my face. :/
    Interesting about the train episode, considering that it was two guys. Most of the hugging here is females to females, females to guys but rarely guys to guys, except maybe family. Occasionally. It might very well be the British reserve with guys but that doesn’t explain how they practically molest each other on the football pitch.
    There was a programme on the other night, narrated by Julie Walters I think, on how awkward Brits can be in so many social circumstances. I recognised myself in more than a few despite being a hugger. 🙂

    Posted by scottishmomus | August 19, 2015, 6:54 pm
  4. It’s the mojo!!! I’m so glad it turned up, and in such quantity and quality.
    In the U.S., we tend to be huggers. I’m a hugger, and there is a good smattering of kisses that make themselves known at hellos and goodbyes as well. Friends, family, dogs, whatever, if you’re there and I like you, you’re getting some sort of physical greeting. I try to leave the dog for last, though, just as a courtesy. In fact, when we make it to England someday, you will be hugged and kissed as well, so be ready. Wonderful post. I’m so glad to see you back, and we all know the old adage:
    “happy Naptimethoughts, happy life”.

    Posted by naptimethoughts | August 19, 2015, 2:25 pm
    • owwwh. thank you NTT. I’m glad you liked it. I’m glad you made me write something. Amazing how cheerful a bit of creativity can make you feel. Not that I was depressed to start with, mind you; just everydayish. I’m looking forward to that hug. Although the dogs will insist on being first in line.

      Posted by elainecanham | August 19, 2015, 2:32 pm
    • it truly does brighten your world. That’s why I made you get up off the old arse — you don’t realize how much you need it until you feel the mojo come back.
      Like tea. I believe someone once explained to me that, where coffee is simply a beloved drink to Americans, British people NEED tea.

      As long as you’re good with doggie slobber on your face, then the dogs can tentatively have the first slot. I’ve missed your posts. Not that I was around to read them anyway, since we’ve both been on hiatus, but… They’re like tea. I NEED them.

      Posted by naptimethoughts | August 19, 2015, 2:46 pm
  5. Haha My Daughter-in-law (lovely girl from Wales, now living in NH USA) hugs me when we meet… BUT, her Mother will peck me on both cheeks at a distance of a football field. 🙂
    A lovely write.

    Posted by ZQ | August 19, 2015, 1:45 pm
    • Thanks! I’ve encountered that distance kissing. That is a person who feel deeply uncomfortable with the whole process but who, nevertheless, wants to do the right thing. That is very British.

      Posted by elainecanham | August 19, 2015, 2:25 pm
  6. Oddly my partner has always done the kissy thing but he’s Welsh. Says it all huh? But coming from Yorkshire, I hardly kissed my mum and dad. Grannies and whiskery great aunts got one though. The dog got most of them. So does the current one. Partner is a great believer in pat the wife and kiss the dog.

    Strangely, after leaving university, whenever I’ve met the ones I’m still in touch with, a kiss has been automatic. I wonder if there’s some aspirational class thing with it, or whether it is genuine affection? Dunno. My biggest problem is remembering that Gibraltarians do one kiss, whereas Spanish do both cheeks. Manys the time I’ve tried to kiss a Gibbo twice and they’ve backed away 😀

    Posted by roughseasinthemed | August 19, 2015, 7:27 am
  7. As a True Brit living in Texas, where they don’t do the kissing bit, but they do hug–it doesn’t matter how short a time it’s been since you parted, when they see you again it’s hugs all round. And there’s etiquette involved–no front and open arms–a circumspect sideways hug, involving one arm and a pat on the back! I don’t like it–probably because I am British, I don’t like my “space” invaded–but I’m very glad we don’t do the cheek kissing bit as well!
    Love the Banksy sketch–as well as your posts.

    Posted by Vivra | August 19, 2015, 12:57 am
  8. Oh Gawd! When the red-meat eating, gun-toting, bible-thumping Americans south of the Mason-Dixon line find out about this they’re going to want to carpet bomb all of Europe.

    And ditto what Sarah said. Kiss! Kiss! 🙂

    Posted by lbwoodgate | August 18, 2015, 10:23 pm
    • Actually, I did wonder if social kissing had made it to America. I had a brief vision of John Wayne kissing Charlton Heston on the cheek, and then everything went black…Nice to talk to you again, too, Larry!

      Posted by elainecanham | August 18, 2015, 10:42 pm
    • “… John Wayne kissing Charlton Heston on the cheek, and then everything went black …”

      Yep, that going black part was probably one of those red-meat eating, gun-toting, bible-thumping Americans south of the Mason-Dixon reading your mind and clobbering you over the head with their telescopic sniper rifle.

      Posted by lbwoodgate | August 19, 2015, 2:57 pm
    • Oh no, them boys don’t clobber you over the head. They say “bend over and kiss your ass goodbye”.

      Posted by naptimethoughts | August 19, 2015, 4:06 pm
    • I’ve just been reading a restaurant review and I had another vision; John Wayne in a restaurant ordering Sea Bream with chargrilled fennel, basil, pesto and toasted pine kernels. He’d probably have to have chips on the side, though, wouldn’t he?

      Posted by elainecanham | August 19, 2015, 3:53 pm
  9. Geez, I missed those facebook posters, I tend to miss facebook in general, but I love your lead in photo!

    Posted by cindy knoke | August 18, 2015, 10:12 pm
    • It’s a Banksy picture. You should look him up on Google. He travels round Britain painting the most glorious graffiti in public places. Really amazing stuff. To the point where its being stolen to sell at auction.

      Posted by elainecanham | August 18, 2015, 10:18 pm
  10. Gosh, I’ve missed your humour, Elaine!

    Posted by First Night Design | August 18, 2015, 10:08 pm

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