DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Butt Hole Road

Written by: on June 14, 2019

Culture shock! London. But wait, there’s more – Culture shock! Great Britain. You’d think one book would be enough, but this week it’s two. The first by an America who specialises in IT, English and Lexicography.[1] The second by a Singaporean chef, with a sideline interest in “evolution and the social and cultural semantics of Chinese, Indian and South East Asian cuisines.”[2] This was always going to be fun.

In fairness the books are quite different. Hargraves focuses on London alone, while Tan navigates the entire country. And it needs to be that way. London might as well be a country in its own right. The city is so complex culturally, socially and historically it would need several volumes to master; it takes a London Cab driver up to four years of study and practice just to get a taxi licence. Consequently, the two books have a very different feel. Tan’s macro edition takes you on a fairly pedestrian journey though the cultural and linguistic vagaries of Great Britain, along with a few things to do. Personally, I thought it was sorely lacking in compelling anecdotes. Perhaps the most lacking feature is an essential but missing explanation of the completely bonkers place names that give true insight into the Great British mind. Allow me to give you a few favourite examples from my own discoveries over the years. Get your heads around these: Brown Willy, Twatt, Nob End, Fanny Banks, Scratchy Bottom, Dicks Mount, Upton Snodsbury near North Piddle, Bitchfield, Wetwang, Bishop’s Ichington, Shitterton Great Snoring and Barton in the Beans, to name a few. There are many names with ‘Puddle’ as a suffix. My favourite street name? Crotch Crescent. It’s quite possible in the UK to see an address like this: Dr. Justin Case, 42 Crotch Crescent, Bitchfield (near Burton Coggles). Imagine that on your CV. So, what’s the question that Tan never addresses? Why such appalling names? The only solution that makes sense is that King George III had his deranged 13 year old nephew romp around naming towns with the only instruction being, “do your worst”, so he did.

Apart from missing the fun stuff, which would have made Tan’s book much more inviting, it was a basic romp through the more confronting aspects of peculiar British life that visitors must navigate: warm beer, bland food, incomprehensible English dialects, welsh and Irish language (especially the road signs) and, of course, places to see and avoid.

Narrowing the focus to London, Hargraves looks at the cosmopolitan nature of the city, it’s history, politics, work and play. Unlike other travel guides that tell you where to stay, and what to do, Hargraves is about understanding kaleidoscope of social complexity that is London. Sightseeing isn’t enough – to imbibe its uniqueness on the global stage, you must understand its historic rhythm.

I grew up in the East End of London in Bow. A proper Cockney. We were relatively poor and lived with my Grandparents who had a small shoe making business at the rear of the garden. As a child I remember the grime of history and the bustle of people. Over the years those same people became multicultural. A few years back on a visit to family, I sat for two hours in the front window of MacDonald’s on Hight St and watched the entire world walk past – on any one day there can be as many as 85 different languages spoken. From what I have learned over the years, it was probably just as cosmopolitan 2000 years ago. It’s always been a hub for the globe’s travellers and merchants.[3] My family was working class, and that class structure is alive and well still. The House of Lords is still made up of royal appointments, many of whom are Bishops of the church of England. The landed gentry still have large tracts of land and the regal birth still offers access to places of political significance. In the United States, money means everything, in England it’s birthright. Even the Nouveau riche have it hard in the corridors of power.

As with Tan, there are things missing in the London experience. For example, don’t engage strangers in conversation on the train. – it’s not done. Refrain from mentioning the French (it’s a tricky subject for Brits). And though Hargraves unpacks the British government, general tourism, cultures from around the world and mystical beings known as Londoner’s there is no mention of Brexit, because Hargraves couldn’t conceive of such a thing at the time of writing – all you need to know is that the country is split, right down the middle. Be careful what you say.

I’m so looking forward to being back in the middle of civilisation in September. Long live the Queen.

 

Notes

[1] Orin Hargraves, Culture Shock! London, Kindle ed. (New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2010).

[2] Terry Tan, Culture Shock! Britain, Kindle ed. (New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2008).

[3] Hargraves, Culture Shock! London. loc 711ff

 

Bibliography

Hargraves, Orin. Culture Shock! London. Kindle ed. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2010.

Tan, Terry. Culture Shock! Britain. Kindle ed. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2008.

About the Author

Digby Wilkinson

I am currently the Vicar of the Tawa Anglican Church in Wellington, New Zealand. I have only been in this role since February 2018. Prior to this appointment, I was the Dean of the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul, which made me the senior priest of the diocese working alongside the Bishop. I guess from an American perspective this makes me look decidedly Episcopalian, however my ministry background and training was among the Baptists. Consequently, I have been serving as pastor/priest for nearly thirty years. My wife Jane also trained for ministry, and has spent the last decade spiritually directing and supervising church leaders from different denominations. We have three grown children.

15 responses to “Butt Hole Road”

  1. mm Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    The Prodigal Son returns!

  2. mm Mary Mims says:

    Wow! Did not know you were originally from England. We will count on you to lead us to the hot spots.

  3. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Digby,
    Mary said it, fair or not, we will now expect you to be our fount of unpublished cultural wisdom. Don’t talk to strangers on the train, check. Don’t talk about the French, check. Don’t talk about Brexit, check. I don’t want to embarrass you or myself, what else should I know to thrive in the middle of civilization?

  4. Hey Digby, I think you managed to educate me about London just as much as our reading did. It’s always more meaningful to get the inside scoop from an insider than from any published material — that is of course unless the author is an insider as well.

  5. mm Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Digby, are you sure you aren’t a part of the Dunahoo family? My husband and kids focused on the same crazy street signs and names! I have a picture by my husband pointing to this sign with a funny face which he promptly sent to our son. Oh the mind of a Londoner, you just have to wonder. Ha

  6. Andrea Lathrop says:

    Thanks for sharing a bit of your history, Digby, and with your usual dry humor that I love…

  7. mm Jenn Burnett says:

    Ok, here’s the challenge. I think we need a game on our first banquet night called “Real or Not Real” where we allow contestants to guess whether it is an actual place in Britain. You come up with the Real ones and I’ll get my kids to help me make up the Not Real ones. There could be prizes. Maybe even costumes (you already have some good ones). It will be fun.

  8. mm Karen Rouggly says:

    These street names are exactly why we’re friends!

  9. Mark Petersen says:

    With that title, I couldn’t resist blog-bombing this week. 🙂

    When you said, don’t mention the French, it made me think of the advice not to mention the war either.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfl6Lu3xQW0

  10. mm John Muhanji says:

    I am happy to know that you a boy raised up in London and confirming what Tan is writing here. I am happy that you have added the other part where one need to total about the Frech in the London streets. Thank you, Digby, for more inputs. I am happy to learn more about London. I look forward to visiting this great city I have heard for many years since we were young.

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