The vulgarity of the British

Examples of social decline, especially in the UK

Re: The vulgarity of the British

Postby Nathan » 04 Apr 2014, 11:02

I'm afraid it seems so...Liverpool has always been known for bad taste, and I think Liverpool Day has been set up recently to indulge that penchant for bad taste, but some of them would look horrendous regardless of what they were wearing. I wonder how true it really is that "you are what you eat", even excluding the weight implications?

It reminds me of the observations by the writer Nathaniel Hawthorne of the Liverpool underclass when he lived there as a consul in the 1850s:

These girls had been taken from the workhouses and educated at a charity-school, and would by and by be apprenticed as servants. I should not have conceived it possible that so many children could have been collected together, without a single trace of beauty or scarcely of intelligence in so much as one individual; such mean, coarse, vulgar features and figures betraying unmistakably a low origin, and ignorant and brutal parents. They did not appear wicked, but only stupid, animal, and soulless. It must require many generations of better life to wake the soul in them.


The English women of the lower classes have a grace of their own, not seen in each individual, but nevertheless belonging to their order, which is not to be found in American women of the corresponding class. The other day, in the police court, a girl was put into the witness-box, whose native graces of this sort impressed me a good deal. She was coarse, and her dress was none of the cleanest, and nowise smart. She appeared to have been up all night, too, drinking at the Tranmere wake, and had since ridden in a cart, covered up with a rug. She described herself as a servant-girl, out of place; and her charm lay in all her manifestations,—her tones, her gestures, her look, her way of speaking and what she said, being so appropriate and natural in a girl of that class; nothing affected; no proper grace thrown away by attempting to appear lady-like,—which an American girl would have attempted,—and she would also have succeeded in a certain degree.


Yesterday afternoon J——- and I went to Birkenhead Park, which I have already described. . . . It so happened that there was a large school spending its holiday there; a school of girls of the lower classes, to the number of a hundred and fifty, who disported themselves on the green, under the direction of the schoolmistresses and of an old gentleman. It struck me, as it always has, to observe how the lower orders of this country indicate their birth and station by their aspect and features. In America there would be a good deal of grace and beauty among a hundred and fifty children and budding girls, belonging to whatever rank of life. But here they had universally a most plebeian look,—stubbed, sturdy figures, round, coarse faces, snub-noses,—the most evident specimens of the brown bread of human nature. They looked wholesome and good enough, and fit to sustain their rough share of life; but it would have been impossible to make a lady out of any one of them.
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Re: The vulgarity of the British

Postby Paul » 06 Apr 2014, 10:15

Grant wrote:I know the term "English cuisine" is an oxymoron but surely the food of Britain can't be that bad to have resulted in the bevy of obese "babes" as depicted in the article. Those who appear to have some respect for their bodies are in the minority. Is the predominant shape another indicator of a generation that wants it all with no effort, responsibility or accountability?


More Pom-bashing I see. I suppose it's hard-wired into you.

Of course English food can't be that bad. We could hardly be a society that has existed for over 2000 years and fail to be able to cook. It's not like we've failed to construct other things is it? You've just fallen into one of the common traps of the left - bash the English - because we're jealous of and fear them.

Imagine this popular notion were true and we really didn't know about food. So how did we acquire such an empire on such a poor diet? If we had the room for improvement that is commonly suggested, we might well have controlled the entire galaxy.

Let us examine 'Australian cuisine' (if that isn't an oxymoron). Throw everything on a barbecue grille and then drink as much beer as possible whilst waiting for it to char!

Of course that's rude, but to be honest here, what jewels of the culinary art actually have ever emerged from down under? They're probably based on European ideas anyway, not least English ones.

In the last decade or so, there has been a revival of classic British cuisine, promoted in no small part by the plethora of cookery programmes on TV. It's all excellent stuff. Who needs anyone else's ideas about food when we have such riches here? You might not have known that we have over 2000 varieties of heritage apples here in the UK and a vast heritage of other specific foods. We've been cooking for Millennia.

Of course it's changed somewhat over the last 50 years, at least for many people. That's because of ideas that have, for the most part, seeped into our methods from ........... America!

Though there are quite a few barbecues ignited too. In our usual hapless manner we don't quite do this too well however ....... because we only rarely have the weather for it.

The common conception that British cuisine is bland, stodgy, unappealing and bad for you (a foolish notion) comes from observations of much of the 20th century. That of two world wars, a depression, impoverishment and rationing. There were certain goods still rationed until 1954.

It's all an anti-British plot. I'm not having any of it. I would make a good wager the French are behind much of it too.


I shall come to Nathan's North-West bashing at a later time.
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Re: The vulgarity of the British

Postby Paul » 27 Apr 2014, 00:29

Gavin wrote:Paul, your area looks just like where I live (i.e. bombed out) - but then both are in Lancashire. For decades, people would rather buy cigarettes and alcohol than paint, and the government is happy to help them do that.

Do many people have large plasma screen TVs in their front rooms there too? A council visitor could not take his eyes off our bookcase as it was the only one he had ever seen in the area.


Not all properties and streets are like the picture I posted Gavin. There are still many well-kept properties and nice gardens, though of course very many less than once used to be the case.

I'm not sure how many people have large plasma TVs at home. Probably almost everyone now, employed or not. I don't have any TV. People now just don't seem to know what to say to this.

I know a few local people with bookcases. I've made a few bookcases for local people! Iron ones mainly, though with wood incorporated as well. I actually know quite a few readers of books, admittedly novels mainly. Some of them are unemployed. I would be fairly confident saying that all such bookworms will be over the age of forty. Of course, there is now the internet....

Not far away from the property I posted about, on the main road, is a corner shop. It's been a shop for as long as I can remember - all my life. When I was a child and teenager it was merely a sweet shop, tobacconist, and trader in sundry groceries. At some point in the early 1980s it was surprisingly upgraded and became a small sub Post Office. Very convenient indeed, especially when I moved back nearby with work premises. I've paid many a bill in that little Post Office.

Sadly at some point in the early Millennia (about 2001 I think), the PO was decommissioned and the premises reverted to being a plain shop as of old. They sold cooked meats, cheese, pies, that kind of thing, along with a few tins, sweets and still tobacco products. A traditional 'corner shop' again.

Around 2008 the proprietor, a lady a bit older than me, sold up. The purchasers were Asians. Now I don't know why but the place depreciated rather alarmingly within a short period of time. I still went in there (at first) a few times, each time for postage stamps (which shops in the UK now sell - they never used to - stamps were the preserve of the Post Office alone).

I was bewildered to once see a kind of home-made shelf/cupboard the owners had constructed, which then had things atop the structure. It was made out of an old, worn, shabby chipboard unit (probably a cheap domestic furniture piece) that had been broken up and the panels cannibalised to construct this shop fitting. One long side panel (originally) was now a horizontal slab (one couldn't really say shelf), seriously bowed in the middle and just resting on two uprights and well overhanging the sides. In addition it was filthy, chipped and had various holes in it where previous fittings had once been aligned. As and when anything like that might come into my possession, I would smash it up and consume it on the woodburner.

The whole thing looked utterly shanty and reminiscent of somewhere struggling in the 3rd world. There's no other adequate description. Who would go to buy a pie or a bottle of milk from there? Not me for sure. Actually that's probably just because I'm a racist and a bigot!

Sure enough, all the other local racists and bigots avoided the place and it rapidly diminished further and is now closed and has been for about two years. In its latter days, the owner could often be seen standing on the doorstep, smoking and looking about, one has to say furtively and unusually.

Within the last few months, the place has been broken into, probably more than once. The windows on the side have the glass with wire within, probably a security stipulation when the place was a Post Office. These windows have been 'bricked', or similar and now have numerous holes in them. They don't smash like normal glass or even toughened glass, because the wire helps hold them together. They just look battered and unsightly, but are spilling those little cubes of glass from the damaged areas, all over the pavement. The upstairs windows have been smashed too. The large window on the shop front is aluminium shuttered, and of course is dirty, dented, oxidised and randomly sprayed with paint. It looks terrible, nothing less. It ws once a local shop and probably operated as such for a century, prior to its closure.
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Re: The vulgarity of the British

Postby Andrea » 02 May 2014, 18:31

Despite numerous thefts of my outside door ornament and the savage uprooting of my flowers from the pots to the ground, I keep planting. I have a large terra cotta planter outside my front door and filled it with colourful violas - purple and yellow. I'm amazed no one has ripped them out and stamped on them (as has been the case thrice now). I was working on my computer earlier, facing the window that faces the street and a three thugs shambled past the window and, seeing my lovely flowers, the thug hocked up and spat into them. I was immediately irritated so I went to the door, but then I hesitated because he could have killed me if I had said something.
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Re: The vulgarity of the British

Postby Gavin » 04 May 2014, 10:20

I've just been for breakfast in a “family pub" in the north-west of England. It was 10am and already a lot of older men were drinking in there. Children ran about unattended, too.

Then a gaggle of young women came in. They were all half-dressed in tacky, gaudy clothing - mostly neon pink - revealing as much of themselves as they legally could. All were perma-tanned and cackling and one carried with her a large inflatable penis (about three feet high). As I was leaving, two more arrived by taxi. They carried inflatable dummies into the establishment: one naked man and one naked woman.

The objective for the women would henceforth have been to become as drunk as possible in the shortest space of time. That’s called “having a good time”. Other people nearby do not enter their consciousness, except inasmuch as they might be impressed by the women. Then they are dismissive, I noticed, with a manner as if to say “Well, of course you’re impressed: we’re sexy”.

These were bridesmaids. One of these women was the blushing bride about to enter into matrimony with, probably, some feral thug. There were probably already a few children in the relationship, possibly by other men.

You really had to see it, and no sensitive person could fail to be moved by the sight’s vulgarity, but it was - as usual - hard for me to take photos.
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Re: The vulgarity of the British

Postby Paul » 05 May 2014, 22:12

Andrea wrote:Despite numerous thefts of my outside door ornament and the savage uprooting of my flowers from the pots to the ground, I keep planting. I have a large terra cotta planter outside my front door and filled it with colourful violas - purple and yellow. I'm amazed no one has ripped them out and stamped on them (as has been the case thrice now). I was working on my computer earlier, facing the window that faces the street and a three thugs shambled past the window and, seeing my lovely flowers, the thug hocked up and spat into them. I was immediately irritated so I went to the door, but then I hesitated because he could have killed me if I had said something.


Andrea, that's pretty bad indeed.

It's not that bad in this part of Lancs. In fact I think the town won 'North West in Bloom' for two years running, say about 2010 and 2011. Recently anyway. For what that award is worth, but there are many flowers around town, in planters and baskets, all over. I have flowers in tubs outside the door and a tended rear garden (though it is walled).

But that's not to say there hasn't been vandalism and/or callous disregard in the local parks, mainly by drunken youths I hear.
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Re: The vulgarity of the British

Postby Yessica » 06 May 2014, 09:53

Gavin wrote:These were bridesmaids. One of these women was the blushing bride about to enter into matrimony with, probably, some feral thug. There were probably already a few children in the relationship, possibly by other men.


When it comes to weddings and vulgarity one cannot beat the local thugs were I was raised. You probably know that there are more young men than young women in rural Eastern Germany because young women are more likely to m ove to big cities / Western Germany.

That has left underclass men single and bitter... and they came up with the tradition of "harrasing the groom and his friends", meaning they will crash the stag night, shouting obscenities, call them names, bombard them with trash, sometimes beat them up.
I know a number of men who got beaten but non of them pressed charges against the thugs because people just started to believe that is what to expect when you marry and thought informing the police was "foul play"... which shows that actually the victim has far more sense of "fair play" then the thug.

Local men now go for their stag night long before the wedding and before they announce it as because they grew afraid of it.

A female friend of mine was going to marry and the night before the wedding the local chavs gathered in front of her house, made a lot of noise and decorated it with condoms.
While she laughed about it later she told me she was really afraid while it happened but did not call the police. She was afraid people would laugh at her for overreacting.

I can understand why the chavs are angry... there are young women missing and just not being a great catch they do not have the power to attract a bride but how about a) sucking it up, or b) working hard so they will be able to marry one day.
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Re: The vulgarity of the British

Postby Paul » 06 May 2014, 22:43

Nathan wrote:I'm afraid it seems so...Liverpool has always been known for bad taste, and I think Liverpool Day has been set up recently to indulge that penchant for bad taste, but some of them would look horrendous regardless of what they were wearing. I wonder how true it really is that "you are what you eat", even excluding the weight implications?

It reminds me of the observations by the writer Nathaniel Hawthorne of the Liverpool underclass when he lived there as a consul in the 1850s:

These girls had been taken from the workhouses and educated at a charity-school, and would by and by be apprenticed as servants. I should not have conceived it possible that so many children could have been collected together, without a single trace of beauty or scarcely of intelligence in so much as one individual; such mean, coarse, vulgar features and figures betraying unmistakably a low origin, and ignorant and brutal parents. They did not appear wicked, but only stupid, animal, and soulless. It must require many generations of better life to wake the soul in them.


The English women of the lower classes have a grace of their own, not seen in each individual, but nevertheless belonging to their order, which is not to be found in American women of the corresponding class. The other day, in the police court, a girl was put into the witness-box, whose native graces of this sort impressed me a good deal. She was coarse, and her dress was none of the cleanest, and nowise smart. She appeared to have been up all night, too, drinking at the Tranmere wake, and had since ridden in a cart, covered up with a rug. She described herself as a servant-girl, out of place; and her charm lay in all her manifestations,—her tones, her gestures, her look, her way of speaking and what she said, being so appropriate and natural in a girl of that class; nothing affected; no proper grace thrown away by attempting to appear lady-like,—which an American girl would have attempted,—and she would also have succeeded in a certain degree.


Yesterday afternoon J——- and I went to Birkenhead Park, which I have already described. . . . It so happened that there was a large school spending its holiday there; a school of girls of the lower classes, to the number of a hundred and fifty, who disported themselves on the green, under the direction of the schoolmistresses and of an old gentleman. It struck me, as it always has, to observe how the lower orders of this country indicate their birth and station by their aspect and features. In America there would be a good deal of grace and beauty among a hundred and fifty children and budding girls, belonging to whatever rank of life. But here they had universally a most plebeian look,—stubbed, sturdy figures, round, coarse faces, snub-noses,—the most evident specimens of the brown bread of human nature. They looked wholesome and good enough, and fit to sustain their rough share of life; but it would have been impossible to make a lady out of any one of them.



I'm mindful that this is the TD forum and so it is to be expected that matters like this will be discussed, and further that the thread title justifies it the more so.

However, it has come to my mind that we should not be denigrating a whole city of England based merely on long-running perception (justified though that is in many cases), an annual sporting event or the anecdotes of 1850s Victorian Britain.

As much as we decry Liverpool, is it any worse than London, either now or at any point in the past, especially the 1850s? Is Liverpool any worse now than Leicester, Luton, or Leeds, or, Gavin's favourite - Birmingham? I know that bad activities in one doesn't excuse the same activities in another.

It's got to the stage when we could point at anywhere and find fault. So we should, and yet .........I'm becoming uncomfortable about sitting around pointing the finger - and otherwise doing nothing about it. Is it not time to be rallying in support of England and to be more hesitant in sneering at ourselves? It may soon be too late.

It's a quandary I know. But to write off a whole city or even region, based on the antics of one class alone and more so, on the anecdotes of over one and a half centuries ago...?

Specifically - Liverpool of the 1850s had and was experiencing a very high volume of poverty-stricken immigration, from just across the water. Like a lot of Northern, and especially North Western areas, the population suddenly soared in numbers. The immigrants, initially, caused a lot of problems and upheaval. They were however, very much prepared to work. Back home, real poverty and indeed famine was their fate. Nonetheless, the immigrants had a large amount of shared culture and definitely a shared religion.

There was no welfare state and conditions in fast-growing industrial towns were appalling. There may have been grim areas in America (in cities) but that country was very much more open and healthy than jam-packed Northern England. No doubt the people were better-mannered but it seems rather harsh to judge Liverpool against a vast foreign country.

The Aintree pictures you linked to surely depicted as many people from the South of England or elsewhere in England as they did to indigenous Liverpudlians? I noticed one Royal member in some of the pictures!

They all looked bad to my mind (except the Royal) and that would be the case wherever one looked these days. Maybe not at Ascot, though the girls will be tattooed. One can depend upon it.

The main thing about Liverpool is its one-time importance, power, prestige and wealth and then its subsequent decline. This was once the richest city in the world, except maybe London, and the city that drove an empire. Without Liverpool, a lot of what was and what became might not ever have happened.

Have you been to Liverpool? Look at the huge classical buildings still there and the pictures of the docks of old. Look at the power they speak of and of the wealth. Think of the role the city played in the 1940s and of the courage and patriotism and heroism that stemmed from there.

Liverpool does have problems, as do all cities throughout time, and it is right to be aware of them, but I wouldn't scathe a city so freely, given the glory of its past. The same would obtain with London or anywhere else.

Here's an interesting passage from an historical novel I have. Of no relevance to today of course, but for interest only:

Londinium sweated, sweated and rotted in the heat of a day that had surprised Autumn by its sudden advent. But Londinium had sweated and rotted for two hundred years now and was little changed after it all. This was perhaps the principal virtue of the city that, being ugly from its birth, it had no fear of the ravages that Time would make on a comelier face.

Londinium was an open city now, friend to none, foe to none, a dwelling-place for any man who knew how to fend for himself. In its winding cobbled streets a dozen languages could be heard at any hour; in its taverns, greasy coins from over half the known world were legal tender, had there been any law to recognise them; in its temples, the same chipped marble God answered to the names of Mithras and Woden; in its high and clustering tenements, red head lay beside black, yellow skin by white; and it was a fortunate child whose dreams did not contain a violent death, of man or woman, before it was seven years old.'
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Re: The vulgarity of the British

Postby Elliott » 09 May 2014, 02:45

What book is that from, Paul?

For what it's worth, I agree with you. It's true that we can sneer at the lower classes, and (much more so) the upper classes who ape their diction and tastes, and we can analyse how one thing leads to another, and indeed I engaged in a lot of this when the forum first started. I think it was necessary for me at the time, because back then I didn't fully realise that this phenomenon of downward cultural aspiration was only part of - only one manifestation of - a much greater civilisational shift. That civilisational shift is now much more apparent, and its focus, its main symptom and main method of advancement, is multiculturalism/immigration. These things are also what will bring the civilisational shift to a head. We should be preparing for that, not continually patting ourselves on the back for being more polite and refined than the chavs and the dregs of our society - of whom nothing more could reasonably be expected in an age such as this, which positively discourages them from aspiring to anything. It is not surprising that these young Liverpudlian women have no idea how to behave, in an age which itself cannot admit that one way to behave is better than any other. What is surprising, is that there are still, in 2014, intelligent people (journalists, pundits, etc.) who do not grasp the enormity of what is going on, and continue to be amazed by the trifling little signs of it, thinking each one curious in and of itself, but never joining the dots. Such an attitude is, I contend, either grossly irresponsible or grossly naive.

From the moment British theatre-goers applauded at Eliza Doolittle saying "not bloody likely"... something was wrong. A century later, we should be long past being wide-eyed about this.

I do not mean that any examination of the vulgarity we see around us is silly, or pointless, or mean-spirited. Indeed I still do it myself in daily life, as a way to stay sane, and will no doubt continue to do it forever. But it must be kept in its box. It is time for us, British, to stick together, not pick at each other's faults, however absurd or unnecessary or revolting we may find them. There are much bigger battles that need to be acknowledged and planned for.
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Re: The vulgarity of the British

Postby Paul » 09 May 2014, 05:47

The Great Captains by Henry Treece.

The story begins as the galleys containing the last legions of Rome leave the southern coast of Britain. A dark age of tribal conflict and invasion begins.

I've noticed via Amazon that the paperback edition is priced at almost £125, in new condition.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Great-Captains- ... nry+treece
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Re: The vulgarity of the British

Postby Nathan » 09 May 2014, 18:25

Paul, since the only two people who commented on my post containing the photos were not from this country and so couldn't reasonably be expected to know what Liverpool Day at Aintree race meeting has become known for, and perhaps wouldn't know much about how Liverpool is perceived, rightly or wrongly, I thought I'd add a little extra information. I suppose I did come across as a little snobbish.

As for the historical quotes, I added them as a bit of context in case they might think that their observations are exclusively part of a modern malaise. Things may well be worse now than 30 or 50 years ago, but I find observations of the vulgarity of some British people made by past travellers to this country fascinating because of how contemporary so many of them can still seem, even centuries later - like much of the second paragraph of your Londinium quote!

I could just as easily have quoted from a book of anecdotes I read once from French travellers to Britain in the 18th century who were shocked at East End mothers being drunk in the presence of their children and having no control over them other than through shouting, among other things we would be familiar with, or in case you might think I have any bias against the northwest, I could have mentioned what Friedrich Engels wrote of Bradford, the nearest city to me for much of my upbringing:

Every other factory town in England is a paradise in comparison to this hole.
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Re: The vulgarity of the British

Postby Paul » 09 May 2014, 22:49

Nathan, I'm sorry, I was just a little prickled by what you said.

Maybe it's just a Lancashire v Yorkshire thing. :-)

I have no special affinity to Liverpool, which despite being only about 20 miles away, I have only ever visited the city itself (briefly) about half a dozen times in my life. I think the last time was way back in 1997 when I went to the Passport Office there.

I wouldn't go walking around in Liverpool, idly and carefree, but then I wouldn't do that in many places in the UK. In most places actually. Crikey, not even down town here these days.
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Re: The vulgarity of the British

Postby Andrea » 15 May 2014, 18:58

I just got back from buying cat food and I briefly paused to look at what was available. An underclass couple, covered in tattoos and attired in a slovenly manner, stood beside me, also looking at the variety of cat food. They had a loud conversation with each other, which I ignored, but I couldn't ignore the following:
Man, "Just get one and if they don't like it they can f*** themselves."
At this, I whipped my head at them and looked the scumbag in the eye for like 3 seconds and I could tell he knew he had said something inappropriate. I then put my selection in my basket and rushed off, to hear his tart laughing like an idiot. I went to the checkout and as I was leaving, I saw this couple follow me out, and so I got a little nervous. Terrible that just looking at someone can put you in a difficult position. I walked to where there were more people and the couple then went in the opposite direction. Whew!
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Re: The vulgarity of the British

Postby Elliott » 16 May 2014, 06:26

It sounds like a narrow escape, Andrea.
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Re: The vulgarity of the British

Postby Gavin » 02 Feb 2015, 17:20

_80730999_025684662.jpg

In this article we fine the following quotation:

"We've all been teenagers driven by a need to be anti-establishment and anti-parents."

But the problem, of course, is that this person, Kim Sears - like so many others - is not a teenager.

Dalrymple recently on this general topic and on a related one.
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