If you are a tourist, or an international spy tasked with tracing the source of One Direction and finding out whether it can be weaponised, or a race of aliens from a small, soggy planet looking for a bijou home-from-home, you may be considering visiting Britain. Please allow me to furnish you with some information that may be of use.
Surprisingly few visitors to – and, indeed, residents of – this sceptred isle realise that it is actually nothing more than a large rain-and-royalty-themed amusement park. This is all very much as the proprietors intended: perceived authenticity, they maintain, is at the heart of the Britain experience. Over the years, considerable effort has been put into ensuring that nobody discovers the truth. For instance, all world maps show Britain to be some 250% larger than it really is. Naturally, someone traversing the country easily and quickly would be sure to suspect something and so a number of systems have been put in place to make sure that this never happens.
Of particular note is the Dangerously Deciduous programme. Instigated covertly in 1963, this ingenious scheme involved the development and cultivation of a new species of “ultratree”: a pleasantly verdant member of the Fagaceae family which produces leaves that weigh between one and three metric tonnes apiece. These were eventually planted along railway lines all over the country. A good, stiff breeze in Autumn can easily deposit enough leaves on a track to fracture it beyond repair, leading to extensive delays across the country’s rail network. A similar innovation, developed in conjunction with the Met Office (which, contrary to popular opinion, actually makes the weather and then lies about it) was the infamous “wrong kind of snow”.
For these reasons, and many others, visitors may wish to forgo the railway experience and instead opt to travel by road. Here, too, British ingenuity has been hard at work. Essentially, all British roads are circular. While you are crawling along in inexplicably slow traffic or waiting for your food to arrive in a Little Chef, British staff will convert the place you have just left into the one you think you are aiming for. Recent developments in technology have streamlined this procedure enormously, meaning that Edinburgh can be converted into Exeter in a mere eighteen hours. Despite what must have been a worrying time for them when undercover reporters for the News of the World discovered that the M25 loops indefinitely around London, the authorities were able to convince all but the most skeptical that this was an isolated case. To this day, a majority of people insist that the roads go somewhere despite the wealth of evidence to the contrary.
It is always raining in Britain. Except when it is snowing, although this is widely considered to be just a very cold type of rain. Any sunshine you encounter is statistically insignificant and you should probably keep quiet about it, lest people fear you have taken leave of your senses.
Incidentally, if you do wish to take leave of your senses, be sure to fill in the correct paperwork and take care not to exceed your annual sense leave entitlement except by prior arrangement.
Britain made the transformation from country to theme park in the aftermath of the Second World War, when the Royal Family sold it to a shadowy consortium of wealthy Anglophiles in order to pay off the country’s massive debts. It was deemed likely that the British public would have Views about this sort of thing – an alarming prospect for any consortium, no matter how shadowy. For this reason, it was quickly proposed that the people should be allowed to continue to elect their own government.
This motion met with resistance from some of the purchasers, who had not handed over good money for a country only to let some elected government run it, but they were quickly mollified by the proviso that this elected government would not actually be allowed to get anything done. They were further cheered by the discovery, not long afterwards, that this was a style of government to which the British political system was ideally suited.
Today, British politics is essentially a school reunion at which a lot of rich people make whaaaaay and hrrrmph noises across a room to one another and spread the occasional porcine rumour. Having quietly conducted some market research, Britain’s owners have concluded that the British people of today, unlike their 1945 counterparts, would probably prefer a reality TV format in which, each week, the least popular member of the Cabinet is forced to choose between being eaten alive by badgers or giving up their second home allowance. This is currently in development.
Even when taking all recommended precautions, there is a high probability that at some point during your visit you will be forced to communicate with a British person. Try not to panic: they will be at least as unhappy about it as you are. Where possible, stick to the essentials: profuse apologies followed by a swift exit. In extreme circumstances, however, it may be necessary to engage in a full conversation. Should this happen, stick to the three Cs: Complain, Complain, Complain. Fortunately, there is plenty to complain about in Britain. The above headings should provide some good starting points if you haven’t been in Britain long enough to develop your own personal gripes. Here are a few all-purpose phrases to try:
“Lovely weather we’re having.”
In the unlikely event that this is true, you will have shown yourself to be an observant type with your finger on the pulse of current events. Otherwise, your British person will assume that you are either a) being sarcastic or b) in denial about basic facts. Either way, they will likely feel an instant kinship with you.
“Did you see the football? That ref wants his head examined.”
There is always football. And, while your correspondent is by no means an expert, anecdotal evidence suggests that the Football Association only hires referees who don’t know anything about it.
“Well, that’s just bloody typical.”
Can be said about anything and for any reason and be met with bitter agreement. Try it.
Thank you for your interest in Britain.
We look forward to welcoming you soon. (Staring firmly past you and hoping you’ll go away counts as welcoming in Britain.)
This has been a presentation by the British Tourism Board. Britain: All the excitement of a regular theme park, but spread thinly over a much wider area.