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Guilty M'lud?

I'm reading a Spanish book called "Contra la sinceridad" - against sincerity. It's basic premise, so far as I can tell, is that sincerity or honesty is often a bad thing. "I know everyone else says you're a fool but you seem OK to me," or "Crikey, you're a lot fatter than the last time I saw you." Possibly your version of the truth but maybe better not said.

Anyway one of his little stories goes like this: In dealing with children the English - who are maybe the most hypocritical and least sincere social beings on Earth - practice this distancing with a cool efficiency. Whilst the Spanish shout across the table "Manolito, don't eat the chicken with your fingers!" the English say, calmly, arching their eyebrows across the starched white linen, - "Manolitoooo!" and the English Manolito guiltily returns to his meal as if he had been given a severe beating. Meanwhile the Spanish child continues to run around, get tangled up in the tablecloth and break all the rules that nobody has shown him. Manners have not been built into his genes nor has he learned the hypocrisy of his place in society.

Obviously most English families hardly eat together any more and as to the idea that we Brits have good manners - well maybe and maybe not. But the thing I liked most about how wrong it seemed to me was Manolito - how many English kids do you know who are called Manolo?

What it did remind me of though was how Spaniards have ideas about we Brits and we Brits have about Spaniards that are unshakeable. Socks and sandals for instance. I bought some sandals the other day. I tried them on wearing socks, it seemed the hygienic thing to do. When I said, ironically, to the shop assistant, English style - socks and sandals - she asked me why we did that. And, although I said I had no idea I'm certain she was convinced that was how I was going to wear them.

Peasoupers, high tea every afternoon, full English every morning, stodgy food and shorts at the first hint of sun (!) - English, English, English

Anyway, I have to go now: where are my castanets? I'm off to get a sherry before the bullfight. I want to fit in.

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