Monday, about two and a half hours after we de-planed, the super of our new flat showed us around and explained the intricacies of the H & C and electric power rates, etc. On this tour, he took us into the kitchen to explain the hot water booster switch. Over the sink I noticed a white metal box-like thing with a smaller tap coming down next to the faucet. It was about the size of a large water jug.
“Is that a water filter?” I asked him.
“That?! No, that’s a bi’ o’ hot water, you know, for the washin’ up. Water filter, that’s a good one!” He was still laughing when we left the kitchen.
One of the more interesting reads of the summer for Alex and I was Watching the English by English anthropologist Kate Fox. One of the phenomena she denotes in English culture is the We-Do-Not-Talk-To-Others-On-The-Bus rule. It seems this is a context in which it is most culturally appropriate to exhibit the famous English Reserve. On our first bus ride, to Oxford city centre from Squitchey Lane, I ought to have remembered it.
Alex stood by Norah’s stroller while I sat in a window seat to soak in the scenery. Soon, after all other rows had at least one person sitting in them, it became necessary for a little round woman to sit beside me. We exchanged distant faint smiles as she sat down. In the space of a second, something like the following thought must have piped through my brain: This is almost my first social encounter with an English person! And my innate Minnesota Nice genes kicked in. “Hello.” (I did remember to say it sort of quietly, and with a bit lower pitch. Don’t want to come on too strong, now. She started in her seat, and I heard a little “hi” (or it may have been a sort of grunt, I’m not sure). We’re really rolling now, I thought. Then she stood up and stepped across the bus aisle and plopped into another seat!