Rose Verses Thistle (Manners and Etiquette)


Manners are extremely important to the English.  Our speech is littered with how are you, please and thank you, although these are signs of politeness rather than of actual gratitude; we don’t really care how you are.  We have a hatred of appearing to show off, even when we actually are showing off. Our Nobel Prize or Oscar can only be referred to indirectly and then placed in the downstairs toilet. Opening a car door is for gentlemanly reasons and not for sneaking a glimpse up a lady’s frock and we do not spit, belch, break wind or speak with our mouths full.

When it comes to manners, the Scots are rather more direct.   In England the words ‘excuse me’ are usually used as a way to attract a person’s attention. In Scotland if you hear somebody say ‘excuse me,’ followed by ‘Jimmy’ it normally signals the start of a confrontation. There are also certain taboos running throughout Scottish society and mentioned in many guidebooks, the most important of which appear to be never turning down a drink if offered, always buying a round in return and, most importantly of all, never, ever calling a Scotch person English.

Another guide-book warns tourists to avoid football fans, recommends Irn Bru, encourages pub crawls, urges readers to become ‘merrily drunk’ on whisky, carry an umbrella at all times and avoid council estates. The guide-book goes on to say ‘please do not expect to receive the same quick, polite and accurate service here to compare with the service in Japan. Be patient anywhere in Scotland, this is not Japan.’ Wise advice indeed, apart from the Irn Bru part.  Finally it explained that the Scots are a ‘low contact’ type of people and that, instead of touching or standing close, it is better to remain at least one arm’s length from a Scotsman. This is also good advice although, if you are English, you may want to make this at least a couple of miles.


An Englishman even if he is alone, forms an orderly queue of one. ~ GEORGE MIKES

When I first read this comment, I thought it was an amusing exaggeration but then I found not only that it was true, but also that I do it myself. When waiting alone for a bus or at a taxi stop, I do not lounge about anywhere roughly within striking distance of the stop as people do in other countries – I stand directly under the sign, facing in the correct direction, exactly as if I were at the head of a queue. I form a queue of one. If you are English, you probably do this too. ~ Kate Fox, Watching the English

I’m amazed by how compliant people are in this country. They go into service stations – “cathedrals of despair”, as I call them – where baseball-capped ghouls of the night lord it over their congealed bean kingdoms, their fried-bread twilights, their neon demi-mondes, tempting you to enter to become them, undead. ‘Ooh, beans on toast, £18.95, very reasonable. Oh no, I’m not going to complain. They probably pump them up from London in special tubes.’ ~ Bill Bailey

When it’s three o’clock in New York, it’s still 1938 in Scotland. ~ Bette Midler

Once upon a time the English knew who they were… They were polite, excitable, reserved and had hot-water bottles instead of a sex-life: how they reproduced was one of the mysteries of the western world…They were class-bound, hidebound and incapable of expressing their emotions. They did their duty. Fortitude bordering on the incomprehensible was a byword: ‘I have lost my leg, by God!’ exclaimed Lord Uxbridge, as shells exploded all over the battlefield. ‘By God, and have you!’ replied the Duke of Wellington. ~Jeremy Paxman, The English

I was allowed to ring the bell for assembly [at school]. It was the beginning of power. ~ Geoffrey Archer

To be born English and healthy is to win first prize in the lottery of life. ~ Cecil Rhodes

Ask any man what nationality he would prefer to be, and ninety-nine out of a hundred will tell you that they would prefer to be Englishmen. ~ Cecil Rhodes

Today, as most true Englishmen almost certainly won’t be aware, is St George’s Day and, like most true Englishmen, I’m not going to be celebrating it because we English don’t go in for that sort of thing. We’re aware that other countries like to set aside special days to paint themselves tartan or impersonate dragons or toast each other in poetic, but moribund, tongues and generally give themselves a big up for coming from somewhere obscure and ethnic. But we English, we don’t need to. When you spend 365 days every year knowing how wonderful it is to have been born in the land that invented pretty much everything that is good, beautiful and noble, why single out one day for special treatment?  ~ James Delingpole, The Times

Let us pause to consider the English. Who when they pause to consider themselves they get all reticently thrilled and tinglish, because every Englishman is convinced of one thing, viz; that to be an Englishman is to belong to the most exclusive club there is. ~ Ogden Nash

He was inordinately proud of England and he abused her incessantly. ~ H.G Wells

The English never smash in a face. They merely refrain from asking it to dinner. ~ Margaret Halsey

On the continent people have good food; in England people have good manners. ~ George Mikes

If an Englishman gets run down by a truck, he apologizes to the truck. ~ Jackie Mason

England is a nation of shopkeepers! ~ Napoleon

Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to speak French.  ~ P.G. Wodehouse, The Luck of the Bodkins

The Englishman who visits Mount Etna will carry his tea-kettle to the top. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The English are proud of their stoicism and resilience, though often in practice they are hypochondriacs. ‘Musn’t grumble,’ the English say straight after grumbling…’ ~ Henry Hitchings

Thistle vs Rose (700 Years of Winding up the Scots) by Albert Jack is available now

Albert Jack books available for download here


Rose Verses Thistle (700 Years of Winding up the Scottish)

Introduction: My England, My Scotland

As a proud Englishman, I am also a Scottish Nationalist. That is, of course, in the same way that I may be considered a lesbian. I am in favour of all the same things. I fully understand. I am sympathetic. I see where you are all coming from. The love of a lovely woman and an Independent Scotland would both do me nicely thanks. We are on the same side.

The rivalry between the English and Scots has been going on as long as history itself. No sooner did man learn to walk upright and light a fire, did the people from the colder end of this island start arguing with the Sassenachs over who owned what cave, where the goats could be grazed and whose unevolved woman belonged to whom. (Not unlike parts of Scotland today.)

And this is the perfect time to examine such a rivalry. What with 2014 being the 700th anniversary of Scotland’s original bid for independence when spider-inspired Robert the Bruce laid a trap for the effeminate King Edward II near a small stream called Bannockburn, south of Stirling. But what has really got me going is Scotland’s referendum in September when everyone north of the border gets to vote on whether they want out of the United Kingdom or not.

I have two major issues with this referendum. The first is why so many of the prominent, high-profile Scottish Nationalists, who have been calling so loudly for independence, no longer live in Scotland. I could name the actors and the tartan-wearing pop singers I refer to but what is the point? My point is that the notable thing about the Scots is as soon as they can afford to leave, they usually do. My other irritation is that whilst these expatriate patriots are respectfully listened to, we English aren’t even eligible to vote in this referendum that affects us all. But that is probably just as well because it could result in the unique situation where the Scots vote to stay in and the English vote them out.

So, If the Scots were to hand back everything we’d given them, when we waved them on their un-merry way, then how would they be affected? Well for one thing I doubt they’ll be very happy when they start having to queue up at immigration. Imagine that. Applying for an English visa just to pop across the border to Berwick for their weekly shopping. And then having to pay import duty on the way home. And don’t anybody north of the Border expect the European Union to recognise an independent Scotland any time soon. That would be seen as a green light to every other backward thinking province and region in Europe to start demanding independence. An independent Scotland would give the Basque people of Spain ideas above their station and that is not going to happen. So Scotland’s independence from England means independence from Europe as well. Not a glorious separate European state at all. Far from it. Don’t think Italy, Portugal or the Netherlands, think Andorra, San Marino or Liechtenstein instead.

We even introduced the Scots to their national dish. Haggis was actually invented in Scandinavia by the Vikings (haggva is Old Norse for ‘to chop up’) who brought it along when they invaded England. ‘Hegese’ as it was then called was very popular in medieval times (English tastes were more primitive then) and was first written about in 1430: Scotland only formally adopted it during the 18th century.  So that’s Haggis off the menu for an independent Scotland. Not to mention the Scotch egg, which was brought back to England from India by the soldiers of the Empire and worked up for Victorian picnics by London’s Fortnum and Mason. And Scotch broth, which turns out to be a very English soup (its name is a dig at the legendary meanness of the Scots as it’s something that can be made from very cheap ingredients). And that’s just the starters.

Our pathetic Chancellor has threatened them with the removal of the pound but what about if we took back our language too. There is no question that the good people from north of the border would struggle without English. A recent census revealed that as few as 1% of the population can speak Gaelic which, by the way, is Irish anyway but they can have it all the same.

But this brings us to the question of who is actually Scottish and who is actually English anyway? Those lines blurred a long time ago. I have a friend who insists he is Scottish because he supports Glasgow Rangers. I keep telling him he isn’t but he will not listen and wants me to mind my own business. But my evidence is compelling. Namely that he was born in Newcastle and has a Geordie accent. But that is not good enough for him and so he is Scottish. Mind you, he has made a few quid and lives in Los Angeles now so that doesn’t matter anyway.

Even Scotland’s very own patron saint, St Andrew, wasn’t a local boy. He was a disciple of John the Baptist and was born somewhere near the Sea of Galilee. He has also been adopted by Russia, Malta, Cyprus, The Ukraine, Sicily and, because he apparently told Jesus that story about the loaves and the fish, is also the Patron Saint of the Association of Fishmongers. He was later crucified on a Saltire Cross (that’s an X-shape if you are reading this in Glasgow) which accounts for the Scottish flag but there is no record of him ever visiting Scotland. He had probably never even heard of it. Mind you, England’s St George was himself a Roman soldier, the son of a Greek Christian. Whilst it’s just about possible he may have spent time in Albion, as the legends have it, he certainly didn’t slay any dragons. So I think honours are about even in the debate of saints.

So you can see it is complicated. So complicated that out little group of islands in the North Sea can’t even decide what to call ourselves when we are united. Is it England, as many insist? Or is it the British Isles. How about Great Britain? No? Ok, try the United Kingdom then. Could it just be Britain, as the Americans believe? I don’t know why I just brought them into the debate, what do they know about our history? They have precious little of their own. In England and Scotland we have schools that are three times as old as America. Even some of the public conveniences in our towns and cities are older than America. Forget I mentioned them.

Of course there has to be a head to my tail: just how would England cope if she were deprived of all her Scottish influences? One thing we do know for sure is that in the past, despite our natural dislike, mistrust and rivalries, whenever our small little group of islands has been threatened we have always put our differences aside and fought together against our common enemy. And as soon as that threat subsides we are quick to adopt our old prejudices again.

In contributing to the debate between England and Scotland, I intend to explore both cultures of our once-great countries, where they differ, where they match and where, on occasion, they meet somewhere in the middle. We all live on the same island, only separated by a thin and unguarded border. Could it be possible we are more alike than is comfortable to admit? The good people of Newcastle and Carlisle might well have more in common with the Scots than they do with the natives of southern England. And what does a line on a map mean anyway?

While the Scots have moaned and bellyached about the English for centuries, we have for the most part maintained a dignified silence. But as I’ve never been too good at being dignified, or silent, I’ve decided that it’s high time to get to the bottom of the situation.  Now, be warned that I come into this debate armed with the sword of fact and a shield decorated with historic events. I may even have God on my side. I’ve gathered together all kinds of amusing stories from history, surprising statistics and witty quotations from everyone from Samuel Johnson to Frankie Boyle. What I want to find out is how English culture has influenced the Scots and vice versa and what exactly we have done to annoy each other so much over the last thousand years. So now it’s time for you to settle back into your favourite armchair with a glass of something neutral, a nice Irish whisky or French wine, and enjoy the argument. Is it really too late to learn from our shared history?

Albert Jack, England

Thistle vs Rose (700 Years of Winding up the Scots) by Albert Jack is available now

Albert Jack books available for download here



The beginning is a good time to remind ourselves of who we actually are, and this is easy to do with the help of the latest United Kingdom Census (2011).

Name: England
Just off the coast of mainland Europe
Official Language:
A Constitutional Monarchy
Queen Elizabeth II (London, England)
Seat of Government: London
Gross Domestic Product: $2.6 trillion
Religion: Not really
Population: 56.1 million
White (92%) Other (8%)
National Pastime: Cricket
Motto: ‘This Green and Pleasant Land’

Name: Scotland
Location: Attached to the north of England and surrounded by the North Sea on three sides
Official Language: English (Until further notice)
A Constitutional Monarchy (For now)
Queen Elizabeth I (Well, she is their first Elizabeth)
Seat of Government: London (Forward mail to Edinburgh)
Gross Domestic Product: $235 billion (or three shillings and sixpence)
Religion: Christian (Anglican, Church of Scotland, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist) with a hint of Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and others
Population: 5.2 million (and falling)
White & Ginger (98.2%) Other (1.8%)
National Pastime: Drinking
Motto: ‘In My Defence God Defend Me.’ (I don’t know what that means either)

Thistle vs Rose (700 Years of Winding up the Scots) by Albert Jack is available now

Albert Jack books available for download here