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Letter From England Number 3

6 July 2009

What an event filled week. Wimbledon is now finished for another year. Despite the distraction I have slaved away and written another hopefully informative letter.

Fish and Chips

Over time we will have a good look at food in England. Now, to be honest it has not got a very good reputation. Here are a few quotes I found:

"I'll bet what motivated the British to colonize so much of the world is that they were just looking for a decent meal." - Martha Harrison

"All in all, I think the British actually hate food, otherwise they couldn't possibly abuse it so badly. Americans, on the other hand, love food but seldom care what it tastes like." - Bill Marsano

"Britain is the only country in the world where the food is more dangerous than the sex." - Jackie Mason

"You cannot trust people who have such bad cuisine. It is the country with the worst food after Finland." - Jacques Chirac(French President)

I think these are a bit harsh but maybe there is a grain of truth in them. A good place to start when looking at the national cuisine is Fish and Chips. These are the original takeaway(take-out) and still very popular.

Just so we know what we are talking about I have made the image beneath.

Image Showing The Difference Between Crisps, Fries and Chips

The word chips has a very different meaning here than say in the United States. What the Americans call potato chips we call crisps. Chips are large chunky fries.

Photograph Of A Chip Shop

Dotted throughout the country are chip shops or "chippies". They are normally independently run, although there are a couple of national chains/franchises, the vast majority are owner run. The picture above is typical of what one looks like from the outside.

Frying Range In A Chip Shop

Inside there is a range of stainless steel friers, just like the ones here, with cabinets above to keep food warm. Along with fish and chips, there is other food on offer including: sausages, sausages in batter, saveloys and pies.

Photograph Of Fish And Chips At the Beach

At last, here is our first look at fish and chips. The picture taken on the beach is typical. You will find a lot of chip shops around holiday areas. The fish is one of a variety of white fish like cod or plaice. It is covered in batter then deep fried.

Photograph Of Fish, Chips And Mushy Peas

Some establishments have seating where you can eat in. Fish and chips are also widely available in pubs and restaurants. The picture here also shows mushy peas. They are processed peas and widely eaten with chips. Personally I think they are disgusting, often with a florescent green colour that makes them look as bad as they taste.

The chips are normally served with salt and vinegar, also many people also add tomato ketchup (which I also think is foul).

Beneath I have two images of pickled onions and pickled eggs, both of which make a nice accompaniment to the meal.

Pickled Onions And Pickled Eggs

So you must be asking what do they taste like. Well, they smell delicious, if you walk past a chip shop and they are frying it's a lovely smell and get the taste buds popping and the tummy rumbling. Nicely cooked fish and chips can be really nice, and if you are in the mood truly delicious. They can however be quite greasy and not nearly so nice if old oil is used and they have been hanging around a bit.

If you are visiting Britain, my advice is that you must try them. I would also suggest that you ask around and you'll soon find a shop that is recommended.

The Weather

People Sitting In The Rain

This picture sums up they way we see our summers.

The weather here has been uncharacteristically hot for the time of the year, as can be seen by the new retractable roof over the Centre Court at Wimbledon only being used as shade, rather than for what it was designed for, rain.

Weather is a supposedly the main topic of conversation in England. But I guess this holds good for most places in the world. So I thought I'd add a little weather panel. It is on the left. I chose a few places that you might have heard of or visited.

You can choose a location from the drop down and also change between centigrade/kilometers or fahrenheit/miles.

Bowling A Maiden Over

After telling you a bit about the Ashes last week, we'll take a look at how the game is played. To make things easy I'll just give the basics and simplify things a bit. So I don't need emails telling me I haven't got things quite right! This week its bowling.

A Wicket and a Cricket Ball

Above are two pictures. The first is what is called a wicket. A wicket is made up of 3 stumps the vertical bits of wood and 2 bails, the small horizontal bits of wood that lay along the top. All quite simple.

The second picture is a cricket ball. Now the the first thing to know is that this is hard. In hardness think more pool ball than tennis ball. This is important to remember. It is made of cork in the middle with string tightly wound round it. The covering is leather, stitched together. In the picture you can see the stitching this is called the seam.

Now we have the bowler. This montage shows a ball being bowled. This is called a delivery. The basic aim of the game is for the bowler to get the ball to hit the wicket. The batsman's job is to protect the wicket and stop the ball hitting it.

Series Of Images Showing Bowling Action

It is illegal for the bowler to throw the ball. It has to be bowled, if you look at the picture and imagine a windmill action with your arm straight, that is bowling. This is important to know.

There are a few styles of bowling here we are seeing a fast bowler. A fast delivery is between 85-95 mph (136-150 km/h), so the batsman has a split second to decide how to deal with the delivery.

The ball bounces once close to the batsman then richotes up. Slower bowlers use spin, so when the ball bounces it suddenly deviates from it's course. The bowler will vary this and use many tricks to bamboozle the batsman. Fast bowlers use pace to beat the batsman, they may also "pitch it short" ,a delivery called a "bouncer". This bounces a bit further from the batsman and comes flying back up heading towards the batsman body or head. That is why I made a point of the ball being hard and the speed of a fast bowler. As a batsman it is not a very nice experience having the hard ball bouncing up towards your head, with milliseconds to react. Depending what the ball is doing you might either hit it with the bat, move away or duck underneath it or at least attempt to!!

Two Images Showing Bowling Action

I titled this "Bowling a Maiden Over" which sounds like some young man's boast. I will now explain what it means, so that you can impress your family and friends with your new found knowledge. Remember, when a bowler bowls a ball it is called a delivery. The bowler bowls 6 of these, then someone else has a turn. The 6 balls are called an "over". Now if during those 6 balls the batsman fails to score any runs (points) it is called a "maiden". So there we have it, not rude at all.

Next week we'll have a look at batting, the batsman and scoring runs.

Batsman Hitting A Ball

What's News

Sir John Sawer Waering a Santa Hat

A few stories bubbling away this week. Speculation about arrangements for Jackson's funeral, plus what will happen with refunds for his cancelled dates. Maybe it will be replaced with a tribute tour.

Wimbledon had some classic games Andy Roddick playing in two of them including the final.

The wife of Sir John Sawer who is the new head of MI6 (the British Intelligence Service) posted some information about him and their family on facebook, including a couple of pictures.

Now I don't think national security has been compromised as I am sure Bin Laden knows about Sawer, his family and where he lives. But I guess his and his family's personal security might have been breached as the information might be difficult for a lone wolf fanatic to find out.

I also wondered if the Santa hat is part of the arsenal of gadgets that the modern spy uses, maybe it houses powerful communication devices.

James Bond Wearing A Santa Hat


A Crying Baby

It is Friday and mens semi-finals day. Andy Murray is playing Andy Roddick. It is going to be a tough match but Murray will have too much for Roddick. He will then meet Roger Federer in the final, where he will face a much stiffer test. But "Oh dear" a slight wobble he loses the first set, the boy bounces back and wins the second. Another slip up loses the third and disaster the fourth set. He's lost! So Fred Perry is still the last British winner back in 1936, 73 years ago and counting.

But to be fair Murray really has a chance to win Wimbledon but we'll have to wait another year for "Murray Mania" to return.

I thought as a bit of a Wimbledon finale next week we'd have a look at who Fred Perry was. I think his record deserves this.


That's it for this letter. It's hot and all the pictures of Fish and Chips have made me hungry.

I hope you have a good week!