Apr 26, 2021 12:08 pm Stephen Day 1868


THE UK is suffering from more than a viral pandemic – there’s an avalanche of apologies to contend with as well. Do you tend to fearlessly speak your mind? Expect people to disagree with you and argue just as fervently back? Call a “spade” a “spade” (or if you are from Yorkshire, “a shovel”)? Steady on old chap (or old girl), such innocently colourful, verbal expressions, could be particularly dangerous to your long-term sense of well-being. 

If you suffer from such natural verbal tendencies, here’s a word of advice: if ever the miraculous day arrives when you can fly to the UK again  (hopefully with the certainty of getting back here), don’t bother to pack your copy of  “A Guide to UK Etiquette”. It will be obsolete. Just keep your mouth shut. The truth is, you can’t open a UK front door without tripping over an “apology” (or a demand for one) as soon as you set foot outside. 

You probably don’t have a racist, sexist, homophobic bone in your body, but you still run the risk of being accused of all three (and a host of other non-existent “phobias” as well). An apology will be demanded. Refusal to apologise on the grounds of no offence being intended is not enough. You must grovel, particularly if you are “white” (don’t they mean “pink”?). In that case you must realise you are “inherently racist”. Got that? Charged, tried and condemned with not a jury in sight (if that isn’t “racist” then I don’t know what is). It’s not up to your accuser to prove you guilty, it’s up to you to prove your innocence. My generation’s concept of justice – turned on its head!

Remember Monty Python, with its “upper class twits” Olympics, “The Life of Brian”, “This parrot is dead” and “The gay soldiers’ parade”? In the fevered minds of the present day “phobia” accusers, the Pythons encompassed the lot. “Class hatred”, “heresy”, “animal abuse” and “homophobia” all rolled into one (except it was none of those things). No accident then that it has taken ex-Python John Cleese to show this raving, forbidden language lunacy to be the pure madness it is. He has issued a mock apology on behalf of the Pythons, for “making fun of white, English people” for decades. Brilliant! The truth is, it was all a bit of Python-style comedy, in the true tradition of British satire and pantomime fun. Nothing more. No doubt the “Ugly Sisters” have made their last appearance as well (I think I went to school with at least one of them, let’s hope she’s been “furloughed” and not sacked).

If some folk cannot laugh at themselves, that’s their problem, isn’t it? Not ours. Let’s face it, I’ve had to laugh at myself for years (or so my reader tells me), so I confess, I’ve had plenty of practice.  

“Northern git”, “Tory twit” and “Yorkshire pleb” are just three of the eloquent terms of endearment that have filled my life (I can’t complain, they are all correct, you see). 

So here are a few UK-bound tips as to what you should be prepared to apologise for. Maybe for being there at all might be an all-encompassing start, which might well avoid all the rest. 

1) Understand where apologies are expected these days. Knocking an old lady over in your haste to get to the front of the supermarket queue? Certainly not. Spilling red wine all over your lady friend’s new dress, in an effort to get closer? Forget it. You don’t apologise for the spillage, but getting closer may demand it.

2) Acceptable language? Use the “F” word frequently, even when, as a swear word, it is totally irrelevant. Remember, you “effing” missed the “effing” bus. Don’t just say you missed it. You’ll fit in a treat. No apology required, no offence given.

3) Always apologise for “slavery”, even though neither you nor any of your family ever owned a slave, nor sailed on a slave ship. Most importantly, don’t mention the fact it all happened centuries ago and half the world was at it, that is now totally irrelevant. Most of all, don’t remind folk the Royal Navy was largely responsible for stamping it out, that’s “imperialistic”. Got that? Good. Oh, yes, one other thing. Mentioning that African tribes sold their African prisoners to slave traders is definitely out. That’s racist.

4) Mentioning anything that I have warned you not to mention, even if you were taught it at Otley Secondary Modern, as I was, will do you no good. That will make you “elitist” (this is a laugh in itself, isn’t it?).

5) Discussing job opportunities? Remember the person claiming “disadvantage” should be promoted, not the most qualified for the job. Very important that.

6) Oh, almost forgot, if you shop at Morrison’s be prepared to be outraged about their British produced products bearing the Union Flag on their packaging. You should write a letter of complaint without hesitation.

One other piece of advice: if you want to enjoy British TV, especially comedy, look for programmes with a pre-broadcast “the content of this programme may cause offence” warning on it. You’ll love it.

So, eventually getting flights to UK and back is the least of your problems, as you can see, especially as we have the likes of Channel 5 presenter Jeremy Vine proving that to be the case. He recently asked a TV guest if “all guests at Prince Philip’s funeral being white was a problem”? If Meghan hadn’t abandoned the Royal ship of state, that wouldn’t have been the case, now would it?  The mind boggles.

Just remember. You are probably “inherently racist” (provided you are white), are guilty of every phobia you can imagine (and some you cannot) and the country you are going back to is not the one you left. For sanity’s sake, remember the words of 

Python – “Always look on the bright side of life”. That’ll really wind ‘em up!