I don't normally enjoy shopping but on a gloriously sunny spring day in the centre of Leeds, it didn't seem so bad today. Especially as I got almost all I wanted ahead of my return to Spain.
Of course, there was the additional fact that one is regularly reminded what a more appealing task shopping is here in the UK than back home in Spain . .
- Shop assistants who are occupied always apologise and say they'll be right with you. And they usually are.
- You never have to wait for an assistant to finish his/her conversation with a colleague. Or with a friend at the other end of a mobile phone.
- When they haven't got what you want, the assistants invariably apologise and then volunteer details of a shop which might have it. They don't just say “No”.
- No one ever walks in front of you, as if you didn't exist.
Of course, it's not all plain sailing; you constantly have to deal with the bizarre British need to apologise – if they think they're in your way in a supermarket aisle; if they think they might just be in your line of sight; and, most weirdly, if you've trodden on their foot.
And then there's the driving. Which I'd better leave for another day.
Another extract from Bill Bryson's Mother Tongue – “Under the long onslaught from the Scandinavians and the Normans, Anglo-Saxon took a hammering. According to one estimate, about 85% of the 30,000 Anglo-Saxon words died out under the influence of the Danes and the Normans. That meant that only 4,500 Anglo-Saxon words survived - about 1% of the total number of words in the OED. And yet those surviving words are among the most fundamental words in English: man, wife, child, brother, sister, live, fight, love, drink, eat, sleep, house, and so on. They also include most of the short 'function' words of the language: to, for, but, and, in, on, and so forth. As a result, almost half the words in any sample of modern English writing will be of Anglo-Saxon origin. According to one study, every one of the most common 100 words in English is Anglo-Saxon. To this day, we have an almost instinctive preference for the older Anglo-Saxon phrases. We feel more comfortable getting a hearty welcome than being granted a cordial reception.”