Thursday, November 22, 2007

Jerry In The Linen*

In many respects, I think the normal, everyday people of the UK have much more in common with the normal, everyday people of Germany than with any of our other European neighbours. We aren't haw-hee-haw-hee-hawn like the French. We're not all ai-yay-yay-yay-yay! like the Spanish. And I won't even try for a crude Italian stereotype because I'm not sure how to spell it convincingly. No, if anything, we're much closer to slightly plodding but jovial hurdy-burdy-hurr of the lovely German volk.

This was brought home to me with some force at the weekend when our trip to Manchesterford threw up a totally unexpected delight. There is a huge - did I say huge? I meant huge! - Christmas market in the middle of the city that runs from mid-November all the way up to the festive season. The preponderance of the stalls seem to be German, although Holland and the Scandinavian countries are also well-represented.

Lots of stalls serving hot mulled wine, great big wursts in a bun (and we all like a nice big sausage in between the buns, innit?), sweets, cakes, candle-powered glockenspeils ... marvellous.

In addition to a couple of big sausages, plates of lovely, warming stew (and heaven knows, the warming was much needed - it was perishing cold!), and the odd tumbler of hot, spiced wine, we also picked up some marvellous spongiform puppets as presents.


I saw an ad for Borders, who are giving away a seasons greetings card to everyone who buys a copy of Richard Dawkin's The God Delusion. The card reads "O come, all ye faithless". I like it a lot - I know a few people who would probably appreciate them, too. But as I was writing this, it struck me that I want a word to use instead of "the festive season", "yuletide", "xmas" (which isn't really fooling anyway, and besides, the x is just shorthand), or worst of all, "the holiday season". So, here it is ... (drum roll) ...
I like it, although I have to admit that if you use it, you might just sound like you have a speech impediment.

*** End of NEOLOGISM FLASH ***

Anyhow, to get back on topic, the markets were great, and the German people who come over to get involved in them seem friendly, jovial, and lovely, and just keen to get along with everyone. It was really lovely. This kind of thing is when the whole European experience works well.

Incidentally, we hadn't heard of this market thing at all before, but apparently it has been going on for a few years now. If they had such a thing in London, we'd know all about it. As it is, we're going to the Winter Wonderland, as previously mentioned, and we're now expecting to be a bit underwhelmed after our Manchesterford experience. But we'll see.

Watch this space (as the gynaecology lecturer said to her students).

*One of the curious things about New Zealand is that they refer to bed sheets, towels, and things of that ilk collectively as "Manchester". I imagine it's a reference back to the days when such products were made in that city, although I would have thought Birmingham would have been a more obvious choice. It also makes me wonder why they don't refer to cutlery as "Sheffield". An ex of mine had a grandmother who insisted on referring to the crockery as "Delft". Even when none of it had come from there.


Da Nator said...

Ooo - sounds like a fabulous market! Way more fun than the one we usually have in Union Square, which is generally overpriced and has a disappointingly low mulled-wine-and-bratwurst to pottery-tchotchkelehs ratio. Although it's crassly commercial, I do enjoy nosing around the stalls and basking in the warm mythmassy glow of it all, even if I have to hie me to the German glassmaker's ornament shop and then the Austrian restaurant for gl├╝hwine, afterwards. My people are from the Alps via Milwaukee, alas, and if you don't have sausage and alcohol, it's not Die MythenMassensteinen thingy.

Looking forward to see photos of Wonderland. And do we get to see one of your bike? (Or did I miss 'em already?)

David said...

Personally I find the Dutch culturally closest. I provide, as anecdotal evidence, the fact that the main branch of English is the dialect of a district of Holland called Fresia. Indeed, the Dutch hardly seem foreign at all.

Although I have heard a cynic call the Dutch the universal cultural chameleons.

Anyhow, I find anyone trying to sell their sausage is friendly. Though I shall instantly argue against myself again, by admitting that I do like a German!

I do like Mythmas, not forgetting of course that "Margo Ledbetter" used "Yuletide Felicitations" in her cards.

Inexplicable DeVice said...

Blimey! I thought Manchesterford was a made up place for Acorn Antiques to be set in.

What an ignoramus I am.

I do, however, know of Godmanchester as Indescribable once lived there...

Qenny said...

da nator: alas, I don't yet have a bike. I have some lessons planned (8/9 Dec, 15/16 Dec), and my test on the 18th. After that, if I pass, I'll get myself some wheels, and then the photos will appear.

david: I agree that the Dutch (and Flemish speaking Belgians) are also very close, but I mentally grouped them all as "Germanic", and then just used the word "German" for ease of reference.

idv: Well spotted. Manchesterford is indeed just made up for Acorn Antiques. That said, having spent considerable some time there this year, calling it Manchesterford does make some sense. People from the city of Salford are very particular about being from Salford rather than Manchester, even though the two are a conurbation, and outsiders refer to the whole thing as Manchester. Sticking a "ford" on the end might make the Salford folks feel less left out.