Trivial Pursuit in the Kingdom of Brunei

Somewhere in the cobwebbed corners of my increasingly befuddled brain is a line from a film. Or a television programme. Or a play. Or something that someone once said to me in a pub. Or perhaps a synthesis of all of these. Regardless of its provenance, the line is quite clear to me. Clear and, after the week just gone, pleasingly apposite:

Things are going to change around here.

Although that spelling of “going” suggests an English accent and the line in my head is most definitely spoken by an American so I suppose it should be rendered thus:

Things are gonna change ’round here.

In the mind of most British people there are only three American accents. 1 – New York (where we assume everyone speaks like Woody Allen or Larry David); 2 – Vaguely Southern (cf. Bill Clinton or J.R. Ewing) or 3 – Generic American (the remaining 315,566,994 members of the population – thanks Wikipedia). This is clearly nonsense; I know for a fact that there are women in America – I met one once, she was lost just near Piccadilly Circus and asked me the way to Carnaby Street. I gave her directions and she she said “thank you” and walked away. And what a moment that was in the ongoing special relationship between our two nations.

Where was I? Oh yes, change. I like change. I like change in all its forms. I like changing shirts before heading out for an evening on the tiles. I like changing my name to something obscure on the very rare occasions that I buy a coffee from Starbucks just so I can smirk as the poor, underpaid coffee-crunchers (or whatever they are called) try to spell “Demitri on the side of my latte (this makes me a bad person, I do realise this) I like the Jacobean tragedy “The Changeling”. My favourite football team is Changers United. I bank with the National Bank of Change and Reorientation . . . you get the idea. Except that if you do I must admit that the idea is entirely fraudulent because I am actually something of a wuss when it comes to modification, variation, conversion, revision, amendment, adjustment, adaptation; remodelling, reshaping, remoulding, redoing, reconstruction, rebuilding, recasting. In short, I fear change. One look at my sock drawer is testament to this.

But, to misquote Shakespeare entirely, sometimes change is thrust upon us and we must cope with the consequences the best we can. And in the past week, a number of changes have occurred around “here” that have been both exciting and a little bewildering, whatever the accent with which you choose to describe them.

Since deciding to write a blog , the decision taken as I sat over-full and over-whiskied in front of the fire at my parents’ house last Christmas (that is to say an open fire, my parents’ house wasn’t ON fire, if it had been I think stuffing another chocolate into my face and sipping scotch would have seemed a touch insensitive) the readership, such as it was, was overwhelmingly British in nature. My regular badgering of my Facebook “friends” garnered enough views to make me relatively content that the weekly banging of the keyboard was worthwhile. I received a few pleasant comments that my assorted ramblings had been enjoyed – the post about choosing names for characters was particularly well-received but the audience was resolutely Anglo Saxon, aside from a few friends in more exotic places in the world like Japan, Australia and Wales, plus the odd American who must have stumbled into the blog by mistake and then been somewhat baffled by references to “the corner shop”, Brian Blessed and early 90s indie band “Ride”.

And then last week my blog was chosen by the WordPress “team” (and I hope they have a special WordPress kit with long pink socks and shirts with a large “WP” emblazoned on the front – just like Manchester United but with the ability to accurately use the semi-colon and to not split infinitives . . ) to be featured on their “freshly pressed” page. Then everything went mad. Mad in a glorious and utterly heartening way. My blog was now being read by PEOPLE I DON’T KNOW in countries around the world, some of which I didn’t even know were countries and I am usually pretty decent at the blue questions in Trivial Pursuit.

I fear this could all be construed as showing off so please believe me when I say that it isn’t. The whole experience has been hugely pleasing and the WordPress community has been, without exception, generous, funny and supportive in their comments and I would like to take each of you out for a pint of good local ale to say thank you were it not for the twin challenges of distant geography and the ridiculous price of good local ale these days.

But I worry, I really do. I worry that I have misled the peoples of Laos and Armenia, Guatemala and Bhutan. I worry that I am going to let you down. I worry that when you find out that I am really just a bloke from Devon who makes films you are going to stop reading and demand a refund of your precious reading time. And then I worry about all the British idiom and cultural reference, I mean, do they even have “Trivial Pursuit” in Kingdom of Brunei? Do the peoples of Uruguay know that “kit” means “that which you wear when playing for a sports team”? Do they drink beer in Canada? (I am pretty sure they do).

So either I stop writing. Or I provide a brief guide to modern British tone, reference, idiom; a sort of C21st primer for friends around the world? Well, sadly for fans of brevity and precision in prose writing, I hereby present:

A BRIEF GUIDE TO MODERN BRITISH TONE, REFERENCE AND IDIOM; A SORT OF C21ST PRIMER FOR FRIENDS AROUND THE WORLD

1. STUFF WE LIKE

Not liking things. Tea. Beer. Pubs (even though they are now stupidly expensive). Chutney. Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Complaining. The pound. Music. Danny Boyle. London 2012. Laughing at ourselves. Box Sets of superior quality American drama. Judi Dench. Moira Stewart. Stephen Fry. Horses (for riding or betting purposes). Shakespeare. Trees. Generalisations. Curry. The endless grey skies. Football (with a round ball). Music made with guitars.

2. STUFF WE DON’T LIKE

People who are successful. Sincerity.The government, even if we voted for them. Realising that we are not as funny as we think we are. Horses (for eating). Any more of those fucking “Keep Calm and . . .” posters. The endless grey skies. Football (with an oval ball). . . . . . . . .

Do you know what? I give up. You don’t need to know all of this. Any kind of list-making (even satirical list-making) is fraught with risk. I don’t wish to irritate the probably numerous British horse-meat-loving, government-endorising, American-football-enthusing WordPress readers who are already approaching my front door with flaming torches to express their disgust at my heinous dismissal of their passion. Although that said, I did laugh at this poster, created by a reader of the Guardian newspaper in response to a story about our brave and inspiring government’s attempts to put off potential immigrants to Britain from Eastern Europe:

Britain poster

This is very true. You can see some other great examples on the same theme here.

So instead, and to end, I am just going to tell you a tiny bit about me. Should you be interested. Which you’re probably not. But if you’ve made it this far then I am going to tell you anyway.

My name is James Gillingham. Many of my friends call me Jim. Some others call me Badger. You can invent your own reasons why this may be. I make films with my friend Jimmy Hay under the name “Long Arm Films”. This blog is meant to be about the journey towards making our first feature film “High Tide” which is shooting in August of this year. Except that there often has not been much to say about this process so I have instead wandered into the arena of the arcane. (see above).

But if you are interested you can visit our website here. Our Facebook page here. Or our Twitter thing here.

You can even watch one of our short films here:

I feel a bit cleaner now. I feel at least you know where we stand. As the weeks progress then this blog will, hopefully, feature more about filmmaking and less about what I had for dinner or a song that I remember from the 90s. And so let me just thank you for your patience, interest and tolerance. Wherever in the world you may be.

Oh and just so you know, it was pizza from Marks and Spencer and wow, THIS was a hell of a song:

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12 thoughts on “Trivial Pursuit in the Kingdom of Brunei

    • Probably best to manage your expectations! I am certain that future blog entries will continue to feature overly-long sentences and assorted nonsensical musings. Thanks very much for reading.

  1. You’re right, that was a hell of a song.

    This is a hell of a song too. It’s the song I spent nearly 15 years trying to write, only to discover Robin Williamson had beaten me to it. He didn’t quite get the words right though, we were 19 and her hair was a dark brown…

  2. You forgot to include self-deprecating humor (or should I say, humour?) under your list of British things! And I love the original Keep Calm and Carry On, but agree that all the other variations are a travesty.

    Casual side note…I just wrote this post that might be slightly interesting to you, given that you write AND make movies. I have never plugged one of my own posts in a comment before, and I hate myself for doing it. FYI, I am also a mommy blogger and don’t always write about movies and stuff, so no need to follow me, or anything. Also, I use exclamation points too much. Cheers!

    http://thejoyunderneath.wordpress.com/2013/03/30/the-movie-vs-book-smackdown/

    P.S. I have yet to be disappointed by your blog, as you predicted.

    • Great post. I think I agree with most of your “winners”. I remember thinking that nothing could match the perfection of the novel To Kill a Mockingbird . . . and then I watched the film – Gregory Peck is just so miraculously good.

      And I will happily follow your blog – I overuse CAPITAL LETTERS which makes your exclamation mark fondness entirely forgivable.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to write.

      P.S. – it is early days. There is still time!

      • Thank YOU! (I overuse capital letters, too…this is what blogging does to a person, methinks.) (Also, I can’t stop using “methinks”…and there should probably be a once-a-year limit on it. But it’s quite a convenient word, and I’m addicted to it!) But really, thanks. I’m thrilled at your comment!

  3. I’m one of those Americans that enjoys the stereotypical witty Brit humor and deciphering all the lingo that is new to me (usually I find the bad words the most fun). I don’t follow your blog because I have any expectations. I follow because I like cleverness and wit and especially REALness. I obviously don’t mind making up words and I probably won’t know if you’re speaking in Brit slang or creating from scratch. I appreciate things like, “… to misquote Shakespeare entirely …” and getting to view of a perspective from someone on another continent.

    Your content seems to me to be universal and your blog is a very enjoyable read. I’m glad Freshly Pressed made me aware of you.

      • Thank you for your kind words. I am glad that you are enjoying the blog. That’s a great video; I hadn’t seen it before. Nationality and Nationhood is a complex matter here on this tiny island. I am “English” (in the sense that I was born in England) but would describe myself to anyone who asked as “British”. To call yourself “English” has unpleasant right-wing connotations. Conversely, a Scot would ALWAYS describe himself as “Scottish” and this would be seen as quite normal.

        Anyway, as I say, it is all rather tangled and a little dull. So I will stop there.

        P.S. If you’d like, I would happily supply you with a list of British swear words.

  4. I saw Moira Stewart in Marks and Spencers in Chiswick. What a day.
    Some people call you Gill.
    My phone thinks you’re called Gill Gillingham. I can’t remember why.

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