Hello! As you have chosen to read this book it is possible that you may one day consider visiting these islands.
If you do I trust that the “mind’s eye snapshots” gained from your reading will enhance your visit
and that your camera snapshots will provide vivid memories.
If you do visit, you will hear people using a number of different greetings, including the one at the top of this text.
Here are some more for you to try: Good day – How are you? – Hi –
Have a nice day – Lovely to see you – Good morning/afternoon/evening.
As there are many greetings, so there are also many different names used for the group of islands you are visiting:
England – Britain – Great Britain – United Kingdom (U.K.) – The British Isles.
Out of all these names the most helpful, however politically not quite correct, as you will discover later on, probably is “the British Isles”.
You may like to put down this book now and find an atlas.
Look at a map of Europe closely to see where the British Isles lie in relation to France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Norway.
You will see that Great Britain consists of two islands, just across the coast from Northern France.
The larger of the two, looking like Santa Claus on his knees, is the main island of Britain
and the smaller, not unlike the shape of a lamb turned on its side, is Ireland,
which is pronounced in a similar way to “island” unless you are Scots or Irish, in which case you would pronounce the “r” sound too.
Ireland has two countries within it, the independent Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.
If you look more closely you will also see many smaller islands which are near the coast of the two main islands.
Can you find these islands on your map: the Isle of Man – the Isle of Wight – the Outer Hebrides –
the Isle of Skye – the Orkney Isles – the Shetland Isles – the Channel Islands?
So you see, “the British Isles” is a very descriptive and useful name for this country just off the mainland of Europe,
for it consists of several islands and its peoples are island communities with an island outlook.
Although geographically small the impact of Great Britain upon the world has been quite large, and you may read in history books something about this.
Therefore the language you are learning or practising has become an international passport.
But, English is not the only language spoken in the British Isles.
Others are: Scottish Gaelic – a Celtic language used in remote parts of Scotland and lately enjoying a revival;
Manx – a Celtic language on the Isle of Man; Welsh – an ancient Celtic language and taught in all Welsh schools;
Irish Gaelic – spoken in Ireland, mainly in the south;
the last person who spoke only Cornish, another Celtic language, probably died at the end of the 19th century.
However, there is now a revival taking place.
You can see road signs written in Cornish and small groups are taking the initiative to restart the teaching of this ancient tongue.
Although raised in a working-class area in Birmingham, my parents purchased their own home,
which put them socially above those people renting property, especially those renting from the government.
My parents also cared about education and were particularly keen for us to gain better jobs and thus move up in society.
As a child I was unaware of any of these factors, but simply enjoyed a stable home and the simple pleasures of a family of limited means.
One day our local doctor’s wife spoke to my mother and offered me a job cleaning the surgery every Saturday morning for a little pocket money.
Probably she thought this would save my parents having to worry about providing me with money. So my duties began.
I thoroughly enjoyed the work and more especially the delicious food which was served to me after work in the kitchen of the large doctor’s house.
The house, the food, the cutlery and the furniture – all breathed of a splendid world which filled me with delight;
it all seemed so much more civilised than our small and crowded home.
One Saturday the doctor’s grandchildren were visiting
and I was invited to join them on an outing in the car to a park some distance away and go swimming with them.
I was delighted at the invitation and asked if my little sister, then five years old, could come along too. They kindly consented.
We had a marvellous time, especially the journey in the car, as we did not have one.
Just as we were about to go home my little sister ran in front of the swing on which I was swinging, and her front tooth was knocked out.
Blood was everywhere, and my sister’s screams filled me with terror, as my mother had made me promise to take good care of her.
The doctor’s wife, obviously used to problems of this nature, didn’t take it too seriously,
and simply suggested that we go to a café and have a nice cup of warm tea,
after which she assured me my sister would fully recover and wouldn’t think of it any more.
She then found a pleasant café with white crisp tableclothes, silver cutlery and lovely bone china tea services.
My sister, by now almost fully recovered, touched one of the tableclothes and said: “This is a nice café, isn’t it, and no cracks in the teacups!”
With this little outing I first became aware of social differences and the class system.
A doctor in England, at that time, would certainly be middleclass, a postman’s daughter workingclass.
2012 Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, München
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