A group of us made our yearly pilgrimage to the Pantomime last weekend. I wonít bother explaining what that isóif youíre British, you already know, and if youíre American, it will take more space than I have available to provide you with even a glimmer of understanding.
Suffice it to say it is an essential ingredient of British life and, due to the alarming decline in boarding school enrolment, plays an increasingly important part in maintaining the tradition of gender-role confusion among young Britons.
Late January isnít exactly Panto Season. But you Brits already knew that, or at least, you should; which was why I was surprised at the absence of Pantomime-related questions on The Test.
Iím referring, of course, to the ĎLife in the UKí test, a multiple-guess exercise required of all applicants wishing to become UK citizens (and soon, of anyone planning on stopping in for a while).
In a few years, this island will be swarming with people who know the number of seats in the Welsh Assembly, the percentage of women in the work force and how many countries are in the Commonwealth, but nothing at all about British life.
Donít get me wrong, I do not object to the idea of the test in the least.
If I owned a country, Iíd want people planning to live there to put in a little effort; you know, find out a few things about the place and maybe learn the language.
If you want to be an American, be prepared to take weeks worth of classes, sit an exam or two and swear an oath that they will expect you to take very seriously.
Perhaps this is why I donít mind the naturalization process as much as many home-grown Brits do.
Standing to attention every morning, with your hand over your heart, and swearing to the flag, God and country was good preparation for swearing allegiance to the Queen.
I would have far more reservations if I simply walked into the country and was told, ďMake yourself at home.
Hereís the address of the benefits office and a complementary map of our transportation, power and
defense infrastructure weak points.Ē
Taking up citizenship should not be done lightly; attaching a bit of pomp and ceremony helps give it a feeling of significance.
And the test; as long as you have a minimal grasp of the English language and read the book, you canít possibly fail it.
The only issue I have is, they should ask more relevant questions. If it were up to me, Iíd pull out the section on the economic ramifications of Britain joining the EU and stick in a couple of questions on actual, real life in the UK:
1. If someone offers you a Glasgow Kiss you should:
A) Pucker up
C) Tell them you donít swing that way
D) Then duck
E) And run
2) Prince Philip is:
A) The rock star formerly known as
B) King of Britain
C) A dottering old man who wandered into Windsor Castle and wonít leave
D) The mastermind behind the plot to kill Princess Diana
(NOTE: D will be accepted as a correct answer only if you produce proof of your subscription to
The Daily Mail)
3) Youíre at a Pantomime and a shapely woman walks on stage wearing thigh-high leather boots with spiked heels, fishnet stockings and a shockingly short tunic. This character is pretending to be:
A) A transvestite
B) A slapper
C) A boy
D) Julian Clary on a typical Saturday nigh
4) Haggis is eaten:
A) Only on Burns Night
B) By Royal Decree, every Sunday in Scotland
C) Mostly on a dare
D) Never. Itís a joke we play on tourists
5) A train is scheduled to leave Redhill at 9:47 and arrive in Croydon at 10:15. When would be a prudent time to arrive at the station?
B) 9:30 so you can be on time to catch the 8:05 to be in Croydon at 10:20
C) Donít bother. Take a taxi.
D) Donít bother. Stay at home and watch Eastenders
6) You are officially in The North when you cross:
A) The Scottish Boarder
B) The outskirts of Birmingham
C) The Watford Gap
D) The Thames
7) Cocking and Lickfold
A) Are words one does not use in polite company
B) Cost a tenner downtown
C) Are villages in Sussex
D) Were outlawed in Victorian times
8) The London Eye is
A) A private detective agency
B) The Big Brother logo
C) A glorified Ferris wheel
D) A euphemism for ĎAnusí
9) You see a group of men running at breakneck speed down a steep hill chasing large wheels of cheese.
The most likely reason for this is:
A) They are engaging in the poor manís version of running with the bulls
B) They really like cheese
C) They are participating in a time honored sport
D) The cheese is incidental; they are simply trying to get to the pub before last orders
10) You know youíve been in Britain too long when
A) You are able to make up a test about it
B) You think itís funny
C) You friends in America wonder why you think itís funny because itís clearly gibberish and you have almost certainly lost your mind
D) All of the above
Answers: 1. D&E, 2. C or D, 3 thru 9. C, 10. D
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