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The A Z of Being British

The A Z of Being British

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The A Z of Being British

186 Seiten
2 Stunden
Aug 8, 2012


As its cover suggests, The A to Z of Being British is an acerbic take on the state of modern Britain.

Funny, insightful and ever-so-slightly nonPC, the book is split into 70 alphabetic sections. It covers a range of topics from the generic (e.g. democracy) to the specific (e.g. Jeremy Clarkson) and from the perennial (e.g. Wimbledon) to the very topical (e.g. banks). I’m very fair in my criticism, being equally disgusted with everyone and everything that gets a mention. That hasn’t stopped some from taking offence, however, so be warned – this is not a book for the fainthearted or the deeply patriotic. There are many good, kind, hardworking people of integrity in Britain, but my book isn't about them. Instead, I wrote it for them. Or to be more precise I wrote it for me, but with them in mind. Not all good, kind, hardworking people of Britain will welcome it. Some already haven’t. That came as no surprise because not everyone takes a balanced view. Patriotism distorts, just as power corrupts. My book isn’t fair either. It’s a caricature, Britain seen grotesque in the cruelest of funfair mirrors, a counterbalance to all those people who lead our Government and our industries who aren’t kind people of integrity, and who are doing very nicely thank you out of screwing the nation while telling us that Britain is still Great. Well, it isn’t, and The A to Z of Being British explains in the clearest possible terms why. It's catharsis.


Aug 8, 2012

Über den Autor

What can I say? Well, firstly, I am quite an authority on Britain. I’ve lived there all my life, even if in between times I’ve seen a few other places too. I’ve also seen Britain from a variety of interesting vantage points. As well as via the comprehensive education system and through the windows of a Scottish university, in between getting an education and getting a life I’ve cleaned carriages for British Rail, I’ve collected trolleys for Sainsburys and I’ve collected timber from the back of a moulding machine in a sawmill. Worse than all that, though, I’ve spent fifteen years in the UK financial services industry – and if you want to get a good view of what’s wrong with modern Britain, there’s no better place to see it from than that. The best thing Britain ever did for me was to give me an education. For that I am very grateful. The best thing Britain didn’t give me was a Nottingham accent. I’m very grateful for that too. But I am most grateful of all to have had two parents who knew how to bring up children. There were a lot that didn’t even then, and anyone who’s had a close look at Britain recently certainly wouldn’t take that for granted. I live in Nottingham with my long suffering wife, Joy. We’ve no kids, just fish and pet hates.

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The A Z of Being British - Brian Titrage

The A to Z of Being British


Brian Titrage

Copyright © Brian Titrage 2010

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of the copyright owner. Nor can it be circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without similar condition including this condition being imposed on a subsequent purchaser.

ISBN: 978-0-9564307-3-1

Published by Dolman Scott

Preface to the 2011 Edition

It is now a little over a year since the first edition of this book went to print. While that may sound pretty recent, if a week is a long time in politics then we might expect a lot of sediment to shift around at the bottom of the British barrel during the course of a year.

As indeed it did.  No surprise, back in May, that New Labour was finally given its marching orders, but perhaps more of a surprise that the Tories had to jump into bed with the Lib Dems in order to form a Government. But then it was that kind of year: everyone a loser (well, unless you’re a banker of course).

In other ways it’s been very much business as usual: Andy Murray lost Wimbledon again, England lost the World Cup again, Iraq is still a mess, Afghanistan is still a mess, Tony Blair still tells lies and walks free, big bonuses are back, and none of the financial crooks who dumped on the rest of us have had their knighthoods rescinded.

In short, there’s still plenty for us to be mad about. So if you‘re sick to your back teeth with what’s happened to your nation, you’ve had your fill of all the scheming, lying, greedy, useless, sleazy miscreants who govern us, you’re  beaten by bureaucracy, jacked off with junk television, fed up with being fleeced, tortured by traffic jams, washed out by the weather, pissed off with politics and hacked off with health & safety? Don’t despair, you are not alone…

This book takes aim at a pretty liberal selection of targets – no bias intended - but if you’re a Welsh police officer, Countryside Alliance member and cat owner of Jewish ancestry who’s into fast cars, has relatives in East Anglia whose idea of a good holiday is a long weekend in Northern Ireland, then much as I’d like to meet you for the novelty value it’s probably as well that I don’t. My most sincere apologies would not spare me. Best, I think, that you read something else and let something other than your curiosity kill your cat.

My key learning from others’ experiences of the first edition is to recommend that if you’re a bit too patriotic for your own good, are of a sensitive disposition or haven’t got a sense of humour it might be best for you to look away now. Alternatively just sit back, suspend your disbelief and marvel at what has become of us …


What a way to start an A to Z, with something that most of you won’t have heard of. Please indulge me…

Actuaries, as the Profession never tires of telling people, are experts in the field of finance, masters in the art of assessing long-term financial risk, and very good at hard sums.

Given that description (for the complete ego, visit the page marked ‘The Profession’ at, given what’s been going down lately in the Financial Services industry and given that you hardly ever hear from them, you might wonder what these well-paid financial wizards have been doing with themselves lately

The answer is that they’ve spent most of the last three years debating the merits or otherwise of a merger between their Scottish and English arms, respectively known as the Faculty and the Institute of Actuaries. Yes, that’s right - while the economy as we know it has ended and our financial world has been collapsing around us, the UK Actuarial Profession has been ruminating on whether it should demolish the actuarial equivalent of Hadrian’s wall. Less finger on the pulse, more finger up its own bottom you might think.

This wouldn’t be so bad if the Profession didn’t have such an over-inflated opinion of its own importance. But consider this offering from the midst of crisis by the Faculty’s then incumbent as President:

"The world is going to place its greatest trust in those whose training, experience and moral backbone will serve not only their clients and employers but also the broader public interest…these are times when the world needs actuaries"

Well, no ‘how to conquer your modesty’ counselling needed there, then. So, isn’t it about time you stopped to think where we’d all be without all these principled,  moral-backboned professionals defending the public interest, taking a long-term view, managing risks and doing all those hard financial sums for us?

You should be thanking your lucky stars for these unsung heroes.

Of course, if you’re a cynic you might think differently. You might think that actuaries have been as happy as everyone else to pocket bonuses based on one year’s profit, many of them were happy to turn a blind eye to their employer’s risk-taking, and that others have stood passively by while your company’s pension fund has gone south and your final salary scheme has been closed. You might also think that an actuary was complicit in the downfall of Equitable Life, and that some actuaries were aware of mortgage endowment miss-selling but couldn’t quite bring themselves to say anything about it.  You might know that it was an actuary who had to stand down as Deputy Chairman of the FSA recently, for the part he played in the downfall of one of said banks that we all had to bail out. You might even find it odd that none of these far-sighted risk management experts recognised an unsustainable property bubble, a raft of dodgy lending, some very dubiously rated structured investment products or a society saddled with debt as portents of a brewing economic storm.

Yes, you might think all that but I couldn’t possibly comment.  Why? Because one of my best friends is an actuary, and I need the company.

Actuaries, of course, now say that they did understand all this. It just wasn’t their position to comment. Just because some of them work for banks doesn’t mean they do banking, OK?

You can be sure, though, that once the shit has hit the fan a veritable queue of them will emerge from the woodwork to analyse the end result. Because actuaries are very, very good at analysing things.

So while they won’t be able to stop our financial system from gorging itself to death, give them long enough and they’ll at least be able to tell you what it ate and what it died of - for a fee, of course.

Jokes about actuaries usually start with the one about accountancy being too exciting, but I always considered that to be a bit unfair (actuarial work may be dull, but it’s not that dull). I always preferred the alternative definition of an actuary – with my apologies to the minority of the profession’s ranks populated by the fairer sex - as someone who knows a hundred different ways to make love but doesn’t know any women.  That dovetails neatly into my own collective definition, an appeasement of actuaries, being a group of people who can see a hundred different ways of looking at a problem but can’t agree a solution.

All of which should leave you unsurprised that the merger process required not one but two ballots to reach a successful conclusion. In the first ballot only 72% of them voted in favour (which wasn’t enough), while in the second ballot 83% said yes, (which was - in Actuaryland, you see, everything is complicated, including the voting rules).  

Still, at least all that navel-gazing spared them from having to get flustered about all the other stuff that’s been going down lately. In fact, come to think of it maybe we could all use a good, long merger debate. Scotland, Wales, waddya say?


After the last entry I bet you thought this was going to say accountants, didn’t you.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t think they would be a worthy inclusion and a fitting sequel to the last entry. But what could I possibly say about them that hasn’t already been said?

On the other hand accountability, the art of being held responsible for something – or more particularly the lack thereof – couldn’t be more topical.

If there is a nation that is even better at cocking things up than we are – and perhaps there is just one – it is surely America. The good old Americans do everything to excess, and while sometimes the result is spectacularly good, more often than not it is spectacularly bad. This is not aided by the fact that over the years they have elected some spectacularly dumb presidents, and it sometimes take a spectacularly long time for them to realise just how spectacularly stupid they’ve collectively been.

But when the penny does finally drop, something that is by British standards quite remarkable – not to say spectacular - happens: some of the culprits are actually held to account. Errant politicians and civil servants are asked to explain themselves before congress; errant bankers are sacked or made to forfeit some of their bonuses; crooked businessmen are jailed; even members of the police and military can find themselves behind bars; memos authorising covert use of torture are published, and some of those responsible justifiably fear prosecution; lessons are learned and new laws are passed (well, some of the time at least).

Sadly, this seems to be one of very few American ideas that has never quite made it back across the Atlantic.

In Britain, hardly any degree of incompetence will cost a civil servant his job, hardly any scale of blunder will induce a politician to resign (or even say sorry), no scale of taxpayer bailout need cost a greedy, useless banker a penny of his over-stuffed pension (unless he volunteers it), no number of deaths in police custody will see a policeman in jail, and no amount of evidence will compel our Government to admit to any wrongdoing (illegal wars, illegal arms sales, busting the economy etc).

In fact in Britain, hardly anybody is ever held accountable for anything. We’ve got more people stuffed into our prisons per head of population than any other country in the world, yet most of the people who’ve screwed the country are still out there, in post, screwing away. And a lot of them are doing it at our expense.

I’m not sure quite when this latest, most virulent strain of BSE first began to infect our governing classes, but it seems to have spread from the drains of Government and every sleepy little public service backwater into the Boardrooms of our businesses and into a good chunk of the electorate (step forward all those people who stupidly borrowed too much and then blamed someone else when it all went pear-shaped) .

Sadly, it seems that the British system of accountability mirrors the British system of reward. When things go well fat bonuses are collected and profits are banked, but when things go badly nothing is given back. When things go well they take all the credit, when things go badly they Blame Someone Else. And as they’re all at it, nobody ever kicks up too much fuss about it.

Those in authority have recently taken the condition to new heights. Government now has its own cure for BSE, in the form of what might best be described as quantum accountability. Quantum accountability, like quantum physics, works on the principle of uncertainty. My thanks to MI5 and New Labour for giving not one but two wonderful examples for the layman of how quantum accountability works in practice.

Take Britain’s really smart intelligence services, with MI5 agents feeding questions to torturers under instruction from some nameless authority asking questions of terror suspects then waiting for suitably sadistic intermediaries to do their work before collecting appropriate answers. Or take that wonderful piece of deception that paved the way for us to follow America into Iraq, the infamous ‘45 minute warning’.

In both cases we can be pretty sure that either the Head of MI5 or our then Prime Minister was responsible for breaching international law (by approving a policy that permitted complicity in people being tortured) or fabricating evidence to justify going to war (in using the 45 minute warning when there was no evidence to support it). Yet just as in the quantum world where possibility becomes reality only when it is observed, so with quantum accountability nobody is to blame so long as more than one person could be to blame. The trick, of course, being never to allow an outside observer to look inside the box and find out who actually did it.

A neat trick, if you

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