Everything that lay before me was new and mysterious and exciting in a way you can’t imagine. England was full of words I’d never heard before – streaky bacon, short back and sides, Belisha beacon, serviettes, high tea, ice cream cornet. I didn’t know how to pronounce ‘scone’ or ‘pasty’ or ‘Towcester’ or ‘Slough’. I had never heard of Tesco’s, Perthshire or Denbighshire, council houses, Morecambe and Wise, railway cuttings, Christmas crackers, bank holidays, seaside rock, milk floats, trunk calls, Scotch eggs, Morris Minors and Poppy Day. For all I knew when a car had an L-plate on the back of it, it indicated that it was being driven by a leper. I didn’t have the faintest idea what GPO, LBW, GLC or OAP stood for. I was positively radiant with ignorance. I saw a man in the newsagent ask for ‘twenty Number Six’ and receive cigarettes, and presumed for a long time afterwards that everything was ordered by number in a newsagent’s, like in a Chinese takeaway. I sat for half an hour in a pub before I realised you had to fetch your own order, then I tried the same thing in a tea-room and was told to sit down.
The tea-room lady called me love. All the shop ladies called me love and most of the men called me mate. I hadn’t been here twelve hours and already they loved me. And everyone ate the way I did. This was truly exciting. For years I’d been the despair of my mother because as a left-hander I politely declined to eat the American way – grasping the fork in your left hand to steady the food while cutting and transferring it to your right hand to lift the food to your mouth. It all seemed so ridiculously cumbersome, and here suddenly was a whole country that ate the way I did. And they drove on the left! This was paradise. Before the day was half over, I knew that this was where I wanted to be.
Extract from Bryson, B. (1993) Notes from a Small Island, London: Transworld pp22-23