Yesterday, thanks to a train signal failure and a diverted route back to London, I spent six hours travelling through small towns in the Midlands. The most exciting part of my journey, aside from the lady opposite trying to plug her iPhone charger into my knee, was waiting until 12.01pm to tear open my packed lunch. I have, many times, considered leaving the UK to pursue my career elsewhere. And if there was anywhere that would make you leave, it would be Birmingham (I can say that - I lived there). The lure of the US is tempting - the buzz of New York (and the promise of trying a 'corn dog' for the first time, by stateside friends) is captivating, although I would have to sell myself to pay for the airfare. With this daunting proposition in mind, and while gazing out of the window at Derby station, I realised that there are some irreplaceable British quirks that I would miss terribly.
Firstly, everything can be solved with tea and toast. It is not unknown for me to arrive home, furious and bleary-eyed after a long day at work and a lengthy commute, to put the kettle on before I've put my bag down. Just hearing the phrase 'I'll put the kettle on' fills me with inner peace. Making a cup of tea - squeezed teabag and a splash of milk (those who take sugar are inferior) - can placate irate flatmates and cure emotional turmoil. It also makes the perfect accompaniment to Jonathan Creek (which, on a side note, is another reason I would miss Britain. Who else but the BBC could come up with Scooby Doo for adults? Alan Davies and Caroline Quentin are a dream team). Making a cup of tea can even land you a job, or at least put you in the good books of a difficult editor, as long it is done to their specifications.
Secondly, I would miss how awkward we all are. We are a nation of people who can't sit next to each other on the bus for fear of eye contact or small talk. I, among many bumbling others, cannot take a compliment without going red and blurting an assortment of self-deprecating comments ('I like your dress' - 'This old thing? It's crap. In fact, I'm going to get changed and burn it right now'). I have crossed the road to avoid walking too closely behind someone else (who was not walking quick enough) and I would rather have my fingers surgically removed than speak publicly. We thrive on overbearing politeness and feel irrational hatred towards those who don't - I personally enjoy saying please and thank you with debilitating frequency.
I also like that there is an element of truth to every British stereotype. We do run outside, clutching a crate of cider, as soon as the sun glimpses through the cloud. An inch of snow can halt public transport for weeks. My teeth are relatively straight, but they do tend to protrude outwards when I think hard or laugh hysterically. We do eat a lot of roast beef (edit: I eat a lot of roast beef), which when cooked incorrectly, tastes like boiled shoes. I also find British enthusiasm for terrible things endearing, like home-grown gooseberries. Essentially just grapes filled with battery acid, my grandmother would force them upon us with glee, along with her solid fruitcake (which we astutely called 'rock cake').
Yes, these are all the things I would miss hugely if I left the UK - along with traditional pubs, baffling cricket reports on the radio, wellies and 'dippy eggs'. Of course, there are plenty of reasons to leave (I would rather live on a raft in the middle of the Atlantic than reside near any BNP supporters), but it just wouldn't be the same. Pop the kettle on, love.