British Expat Newsletter: April 2012

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In this issue

This month

We have a great new author! Jack Scott is an author and freelance writer based in Bodrum in Turkey, where he lives with his civil partner Liam. He’s already contributed three excellent articles for us, and we’ll be reviewing his debut novel, Perking the Pansies, very soon.

Last month we reviewed one of our favourite British pubs in Bangkok. This month, we’ve reviewed the place we stayed during that visit – the Citadines “aparthotel” in trendy Sukhumvit Soi 11. You can read about its good and bad points on the site.

How well do you know your famous people? In our latest Quick Quiz we’ve given details of the lives of five household names and invite you to identify them. See how you get on!

Our latest Pic of the Week is of a Cambodian cyclo and its passenger – who looks remarkably relaxed considering she’s being thrust into the traffic ahead!

The BE Forum always has something new too. We’ve added a dedicated forum for the United Arab Emirates, so if you’re based in Abu Dhabi, Dubai or any of the other five Emirates, why not drop in and say hello?

And we’re pleased to announce that we have partnered with Lavish Homes Real Estate Ltd, who are now the official sponsors of our Malta Housing/Property forum. We’ve heard good things about this company and are delighted to be working with them. 50% of their sponsorship money goes to Gozo SPCA.

Editorial: Keep calm and carry on

If you’ve been in the UK in the last couple of years you may have noticed the revival of an old official-looking poster, with a crown surmounting the text:



The poster has an interesting history. Apparently it was prepared by the newly created Ministry of Information in the early days of the Second World War, when government officials were concerned about maintaining popular morale in what looked likely to be a very grim situation indeed. They drew up a series of three posters, all with messages in stark capital letters and with the official Tudor Crown above. The first two posters bore these messages:




Apparently only the first two were ever deployed – “Keep calm and carry on” was intended to be used in case of an invasion. As Hitler’s Operation Sealion was first postponed and then cancelled, the poster wasn’t used.

It seems that neither of the two posters that were used was very well received by the public. The first was criticised for its distinction between “you” (the reader) and “us” (the government), the second because it was too abstract. Simple messages like “Dig for victory” – a slogan that was coined by a newspaper rather than a civil servant – won more favour as the war went on.

As for “Keep calm…”, it vanished almost without trace, even though thousands were printed and distributed. Just a few remain, mostly in the National Archives and at the Imperial War Museum.

However, when bookshop owners Stuart and Mary Manley discovered a copy in their own shop, they found it struck a chord with their customers. As the image was in the public domain (Crown copyright expires on government-created artwork after 50 years) they were able to sell reproductions.

Several variations on the theme soon followed – postcards, T-shirts, keyrings, mugs, biscuit tins, tablemats, even chocolate bars. And the poster itself has been seen all over the place – even in the US Embassy in Brussels.

Quite a few commentators have put down the slogan’s popularity to the global recession. The Economist‘s “Bagehot” column described it in 2010 as “[tapping] directly into the country’s mythic image of itself: unshowily brave and just a little stiff, brewing tea as the bombs fall”. And it’s certainly true that the slogan seems to have taken off particularly after 2008, as hard times hit the UK.

But we can’t help wondering whether the poster would have been successful if the Wehrmacht had made it across the Channel in 1940 – or whether the British public of this generation are made of the same stuff as their grandparents and great-grandparents.

Well, perhaps they might be. Back in 1940 one of the Ministry of Information civil servants tried to persuade his colleagues that defiant humour would go down better than lofty sentiments. 70 years later, there’s a roaring trade in parodies of the original stiff-upper-lip slogan.

Meanwhile, the MoI’s successor – the Central Office of Information – closed its doors for good at the end of March this year, as the government decided it was cheaper to outsource public information campaigns to media companies.

Not that it seems to have done them much good. The muddled response to the threatened petrol tankers’ strike before Easter (including Cabinet minister Francis Maude’s advice to householders to stockpile petrol in their garages) calls to mind one of those “Keep calm…” parodies: “NOW PANIC AND FREAK OUT”!

What’s your most memorable public information slogan – from World War II or otherwise? A Churchillian “Let us go forward together”, or a chirpy “Keep Mum – she’s not so dumb”? Or maybe Jimmy Savile’s “Clunk-click every trip”, or the more sinister “AIDS – Don’t die of ignorance”? Why not let us know on our discussion forum?

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We’ve started doing some quick trivia quizzes – five questions about any subject. So, if you’d like to write for us but don’t feel like producing a literary masterpiece, then why not try writing a quickie quiz about your city, country, or even your hobby? Please use our contact form to get in touch.

British Expat Amazon Shopping

Amazon don’t just do books, you know. We’ve teamed up with them to bring you the ultimate in online shopping – from a micro SD card to a garden shed! A great way to do your shopping online, especially if the shops aren’t up to much in your part of the world.
BE Amazon Shop: UK & EU | BE Amazon Shop: non-EU

And now for something completely different…

“Space [starts the introduction to The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – the book within the novel] is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mindbogglingly big it is. I mean you may think it’s a long way down to the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.” Here’s a great Web-based widget to show you just how small we are on the universal scale of things – and just how much smaller the fundamental building-blocks of space are!

So there’s a round-up of all that’s been going on. Come on over and see for yourself! Don’t forget…
Visit the BE website and join in with our lively community!

Till next time…

Happy surfing!

Kay & Dave
Editor & Deputy Editor
British Expat – the definitive home for British expats

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