Extract: How to be an Alien in England by Angela Kiss

9781910463215How to Keep Calm and Carry On is extracted from Angela Kiss’ How to be an Alien in England, out now from September Publishing (9781910463215, p/b, £8.99). 



This neat little phrase invented by the British government in 1939 to motivate and comfort the population at the beginning of World War II well summarises the English way of life.

It doesn’t matter if bombs are falling from the sky; you just keep calm and carry on with whatever you do.

What surprises me the most is that the British government actually never used this slogan. It seems like a war was still not enough reason for The English to worry.

Worrying is very un-English.

They say ‘don’t worry’ nearly as frequently as they say ‘sorry’. But thinking of me, how on earth should I not worry if I come from the Hungarian Republic of Worryland? And, believe me, we have had plenty of reasons to worry: we were ransacked, raped and invaded by the Mongol hordes, the Turks, the Habsburgs, the Russians and the Nazis – pretty much by everyone. So excuse me for having the Worry Genes in my DNA.

The English don’t have Worry Genes in their DNA at all. Instead, they have the Keep Calm Gene.

In other countries people who bring freedom, peace or victory to their countries are the heroes. Of course these are not bad achievements in England either, but the most respected heroes are the ones who can keep themselves the calmest possible and carry on. Like the eight musicians of the Titanic, who played music until the very end, while the ship sank, to calm the passengers. Not all the passengers needed calming, of course, just the Americans and the other worrying aliens, since The English did not worry at all. I am sure they just drank their last stiff drink (probably a black tea) and then stood in the queue by the lifeboats, gentleman-like.

Well, what else would you call it other than heroism?

I am sure, not just us Hungarians but all the other nationalities have a lot to learn from The English in the field of keeping calm and carrying on.

There is only one tiny gap in the history of England when The English couldn’t keep themselves calm. When the whole nation panicked.

No, it wasn’t Blitzkrieg.

The Falklands War? Don’t be ridiculous.

I will help you a little: it happened very recently. No, not the war in Iraq and not even in Afghanistan.

Anyway, why do you think that it was a war? Bagatelle affairs like wars hardly make The English worry. It must be a far bigger event to freak them out.

I was in England at the time and I witnessed when, for the first time in history, The English couldn’t keep calm and carry on. And if you think it was the 7/7 suicide bombing, you are absolutely wrong.

It was in February 2009 when a mysterious thing crippled England. The buses were removed from service; the buses, which didn’t stop even during the Blitz. Trains were cancelled or were operating an emergency timetable. Thousands and thousands of schools were closed across England. There was chaos at all London airports, people were sleeping on the floor, waiting hours and even days for their airplane to leave. It was as if the apocalypse had come.

kiss drawing
This 20cm of snow was the only episode in England’s history when The English couldn’t Keep Calm and Carry On. (illustration by Stephanie von Reiswitz)

Half the population never made it to their workplace. And the other half who made it in were sent home as a precaution – heaven knows what might come next.

Walking to my workplace, I was listening to the radio and all channels were talking about detrimental economic impact, more than a billion pounds.

Arriving to the restaurant I realised that our chefs couldn’t make it, and therefore we had no food to serve. So we were handing out yesterday’s soup for free to the pedestrians who took refuge at our restaurant. They sat at the tables, staring at BBC News as if they were watching World War III live. On the TV, the transport ministry officials were trying to save their arses by telling us that ‘nobody could be prepared for such chaos’.

And by chaos they meant 20cm of snow. (No, I don’t have a clue how many inches that is.)

This 20cm of snow was the only episode in England’s history when The English couldn’t Keep Calm and Carry On.

I am sure the next one will be the global warming. And I am sure global warming will hit England just as completely unexpectedly as snow falls at winter.

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