It’s that thing about London 2: Big fucking Ben

I’ve been thinking about Britain a lot lately, mostly because my Natia was successful in her visa application and we’ll be flying there for three weeks next Thursday. I’m beyond excited; it feels like Christmas times a thousand. 

I’ve realised I have a six month time limit in Georgia. As much as I love living here, after five or six months I need a break back to France or Britain where I can recuperate and rest, and above all, give myself time to miss the things I like about Georgia and remember the things I hate about Britain. My patience wanes with everything; whether its the typical Georgian habit of interrupting you in conversations; the incessant muttering of ‘bicho’ and the fact that sentences must be shouted at the top of the lungs even though the recipient is just feet away; when there’s an empty seat by the window on a marshutka but the aisle seat is occupied, and you move to sit down, but rather than just simply move up to the window, the aisle occupant holds their ground and forces you to squeeze your frame into the five centimetre space between their knees and the seat in front to pass; or whether its discussing (HA!) politics and you’re trying to convince Bidzina supporters that after 6 months in power he has accomplished next to fucking nothing and has, in fact, made things worse but still commands the adulation of his adoring fans. All in all, I need to go home for a little while. 

As I’ve mentioned, Natia is coming with me this time, so going home to Britain will be more special than any other time I’ve ever landed in my native country. In fact, I’ll go as far as saying these three weeks will be amongst the most special of my life so far. I’m more than familiar with Georgia and its culture; after all, I’ve lived here for over two years now with Natia. So it will be beyond fantastic for her to experience where I’m from for the first time.

But therein is an interesting thing I’d like to examine. If you read my previous ‘It’s that thing about London’ post, you’ll know that it drives me bat-shit crazy wherein Georgians tell me that they lived in London, or automatically assume I’m from London simply because the place has the dubious honour of being our capital city (and if you didn’t read that old post, go and do it now. It was awesome). Today I met another girl who’d lived in London for two years, and I was very surprised when she asked me ‘Are you from London?’. I’m not exactly sure why I was surprised; I should have known better, really, but it’s been a while since I’ve spoken to Georgians who’ve lived in our capital and subsequently claim to be ‘familiar’ with our culture and country.

In my renewed ignorance, I’d have thought that even if she couldn’t place my accent as coming from the Midlands area, she would at least have noticed that I’m clearly not from London, but apparently not. You’ll think me a pedantic bastard, no doubt, but I think it’s only fair to reverse the situation. Even though my Georgian is a hell of a long way off fluent, I can more or less distinguish accents from Imereti, Adjara, Svaneti, Kakheti or Samegrelo, and notice how they’re different to the voices of Tbilisi natives. I’ve been able to do that for about 18 months now, so after 6 months I was more than capable of identifying which regions people came from, and familiarised myself with Georgia’s geography at a very early stage; so even though I’ve not been to Racha, Telavi, Mestia or Gori, I know where they are, and how more importantly, what makes them different to Tbilisi and the Kartli area. 

My point is, is it really so bad to expect the same? Today, the girl I was speaking to had never even heard of Cornwall. That’s like living in Georgia for two years and never having heard of Batumi. Not even heard of the damn place, and Cornwall is an area, not a city; to those of you also not in the know, it comprises most of the bottom ‘leg’ of southern England, just below Wales. Pretty difficult to miss. 

Apparently this girl had been in England to learn English, but I think if nothing else her exchanges with me have revealed that these lessons need some cultural input as well. I genuinely do not understand how someone can live in our country and not know where or what Cornwall is. But she assured me ‘I love Big Ben!’. Ah, of course. That makes it all better. The giant clock that is so important to all of us Englishmen and our culture.

Perhaps you think that my outrage is petty, but to those of you familiar with Georgia, just imagine how it would be if the tables were turned. Imagine trying to tell a Georgian, ‘Oh, I love Sameba Cathedral! It’s my favourite thing about your country!’. It doesn’t really bear thinking about, these of course being the people who will be quick to point out that although they were born and raised in Tbilisi, they’re actually from Guria, by the virtue of their last time. And no, they’ve never been there.

It’s annoying when Georgians tell you that they want to visit Paris to see the Eiffel Tower, or London to see Big Ben, or New York to see the Empire State Building, but at least you can just put that down to the fact they’ve never been, or have just seen these places in films or books. If someone actually lives in the country, I think it’s pretty piss poor. Here’s irony, though; I know a chap called Giorgi who lived in London for five years, working as a barman. He didn’t believe me when I told hm that he would have made the same money if he’d done the same job in a smaller city like Worcester or Hereford, but not have had to paid the ridiculous living expenses so typical of our capital. Like every other Georgian I know, he didn’t leave London during his time in Britain, and couldn’t even guess where the West Midlands were (though I’d have thought the name might have given him a hint).

Two years ago, I took it upon myself to educate Natia in our culture, and now she’s so familiar with it she enjoys astounding British guests at the Marriott when she correctly guesses which part of Britain they’re from. She can distinguish between accents, but also ethnicity; unlike Giorgi and Mari, the girl I met today, Natia knows that the English even look different from the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish, due to the difference between people of Saxon and Celtic descent. I’m damned proud of her, of course, but I’d have thought that people who’d actually lived in Britain would be able to do the same just by virtue of living there and becoming familiar with the culture…though if you’ve ever been to London, you’ll know that like New York, it’s so packed full of foreigners there’s not actually much that’s British about it. 

And no, Big Ben doesn’t count.

 

 

 

About tcjogden69

Former soldier, current boxing trainer/student living in Tbilisi.
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4 Responses to It’s that thing about London 2: Big fucking Ben

  1. ფურცხვი says:

    Well tim, i totally agree with you about all these thing you wrote about georgia on this blog And i really appreciate that you’re patriot of my country… because it’s not common amongst foreigners to be georgia’s patriots. thus far i know only two: you and one american winemaker who’s living in signagi.
    To be honest when i first time read some of your posts i thought “foreigner talking shit about georgia”.
    But after rereading your texts i realised that i totally agree with you about everything you write about georgia. I can understand your point about georgians and that london thing, my reaction would be same in your place.
    And do you know what’s the saddest thing about georgia? If all georgians were patriotic like you or that winemaker, georgia would have been much better place.
    Now i want to say a couple of words about georgian universitys/students, I’m a student of one of the biggest and most shitty university of georgia (georgian technical university), first of all there’s that thing about diploma in georgia (you should know), to have an higher education is complite must in georgia, otherwise it’s a shame… if you don’t have a diploma (or your son doesn’t have it)
    so 80% of students pass the national exams and attend university just to have diploma (so that they’re not “diplomaless”). That wasn’t the case when about me, i really wanted to study, but after 1 week from the start of the semester i realised that i won’t be able to take away any knowledge from this shitty place… so there was only one way, i ordered books online and started to learn by myself,
    and do you know why i wrote all this things about uni? that was one of the biggest frustrations of my life… that 99% of students prefered to do nothing but stand in the corner of the street drinking beer and talking about how much girls they have fucked in their lifes… i was begging them to learn something with me i even promised them to buy books for them, but no…just no… only beer (if they have money for it) and talking about some shit whole day. (and then they whine about georgia being shitty place but they don’t realise that country won’t be built by standing in the street all the day and shouting “ბიჭო” to eachother)

    I remember you wrote that natia wanted to attend university but she couldn’t because of some reasons… tell natia she lost nothing, (actually she saved her nerves, 4 years of her life and 8+ thousand laris).

    I really appreciate that you love georgia more than most of georgians (though i can’t say the same thing about that bastard, your fellow blogger (btw, did you know that he’s older than georgian nation? HA!)

    Have a nice summer, best wishes ფურცხვი.

    • tcjogden69 says:

      Sounds fairly typical of Georgian men…why can’t all Georgian people be like you?? If they were this country would be a different place….
      And yeah, a lot of people tell me when they first start reading my blog that they think I’m like a lot of these Americans who come here and just criticise it, but after a while they realise that’s not who I am😉 I’m glad you see me the way I see myself; as a Georgian patriot, in the truest sense of the word. I believe that some criticism of Georgian society is necessary to progress, but in the same way that criticism of British or French society is needed. I absolutely do not understand (and don’t like) the people who come here and hate it because it’s not American enough for them, nor do I understand why they choose to stay if they don’t like it so much. I’ve known a lot of Americans, and I actually think some of them enjoy being miserable, but they view it as their mission to turn Georgian into a little USA in Eastern Europe. Over my dead body, I can promise you that😉 have a great summer, I’ll try and put something up when me and Natia are in England.
      All the best

      • ფურცხვი says:

        Well tim, i didn’t say “if they were like me”. In fact i said “if they were like you and that winemaker”. and no i don’t think that all georgians should be like me, i’m not that arrogant, god save me. I simply remember when me and my faimily watched this guy on TV
        http://1tv.ge/video/3343
        And then we suddenly realised that he loved georgia much more than we did.

        You speak about tipical georgian man, well i remember my gradmother once told me (she was russian): “when georgians say toast for their homeland – that means they’re really drunk” – thats “tipical georgian man”.

        And in the end few words about politicas and bidzo.
        I voted for him too.
        But do i think he’s patriot? – no
        Do i think he knows what’s he’s doing? – no
        Do i think he will lead the country in the right direction? – no
        So one may ask: why the hell did you vote for him?
        Answer is very simple: i knew that if misha stays in power georgia will be doomed (if it’s not already doomed). So actually i didn’t have choice, it was “misha or bidzina”
        so from bad and the worse i choose bad. I’m not bidzos fan but there wasn’t any other way…sadly.

      • tcjogden69 says:

        I meant it as good thing. I wish more Georgians were like you – I don’t know anyone who voted for Bidzina who admits he’s not perfect. But you’re quite right, Saakashvili was going to ruin this place sooner or later. Look at the way he changed the constitution last year to transfer power from the President to the Prime Minister…people say he wasn’t going to run for Prime Minister, but that’s rubbish. It’s just funny, because of the way Misha was saying for years ‘Putin won’t leave power!’…and then he did the same thing haha. I don’t know what he’ll do after his Presidency ends. Make trouble somehow, I’m sure.

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