The Empire Strikes Back!

LEVEL B2 UPPER-INTERMEDIATE

The flags were out in Germany- but only in a subdued, 'let's not flaunt it' kind of way. Some colourful wing-mirror covers on the BMW, a display in the estate agent's window. Imagine -had England somehow managed to bring home the World Cup, the whole country would have been decked out in red and white until Christmas! Why so muted, I asked my hosts? They explained that given Germany's history, displays of flag-waving nationalism are kept to a minimum, although it is acceptable to wave a flag, as long as it's only for the footie.

Contrast that to the sea of flags out in Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games, where 54 countries have come to compete for sporting glory. Formerly known as the Empire Games, almost all of the competing countries were once part of the British Empire, which at its height is said to have encompassed one quarter of Earth's land area, and one fifth of its population. Following the independence of almost all of these nations, one would think most of them would be happy to wave good-bye to former colonists for good- but happily most joined the Commonwealth, a club of nations promoting co-operation in areas of trade, sport, aid and even law-making.

With the Queen as Head, this 'club' was seen as so desirable that some countries (such as Mozambique) joined up, even though they'd never been part of the former Empire. Today, the Commonwealth comprises 54 countries, 19  of which are in Africa, and includes some of the world's most populous and dynamic nations, such as India, Malaysia and South Africa.

 Even today, Comonwealth countries are home to just under one third of the world's population, and 50% of those people are under 25 years old. In the next 5 years, the combined GDP of these countries is predicted to grow 3 times faster that that of the Eurozone. These people will speak English as well as their native tongues, have the Queen's descendants as their Head of Commonwealth, and be hungry for the economic power that the Old World has enjoyed for so long.

So come on Germany, be proud and get the flags out while you can- because the flag-wavers of the future will be many and spread right across the globe and some of their flags may even have a small Union Jack in the corner. A case of the Empire ( sorry, Commonwealth) strikes back?

VOCABULARY

subdued- quiet, not showy

to flaunt something- to show off about something you are proud of

to be decked out- to be decorated in, covered in

muted- quiet, restrained, reserved ( mute button on TV etc= silent)

footie- Brit slang for football( US soccer)

to encompass- to include, to cover

to comprise- to be made up of, to include

 

May 2014- massive fridge, massive election, massive metaphor

 

Level C1/C2 Advanced- Warning, contains irony and an appalling extended metaphor

It's controversial,it's been much debated, and it's arriving on May 22nd. It's been planned, mulled over, discussed and caused a lot of arguments: it's our new 'American-style' fridge-freezer, or should I say 'European- style'...

Division has reigned since the idea of the big fridge was first mooted, early on in the whole modern new kitchen project. Conflicting points of view were voiced by various members of the wider family, all keen to have an input at the outset: everyone was determined to get in on the act, with differing visions of the future kitchen. The male offspring felt that such a large, unwieldy fridge was completely unnecessary, and that the kitchen would function perfectly well with the existing smaller fridge that was far less obtrusive and less costly: the female offspring felt that a large, modern fridge would complement the new-look kitchen and work well with the other appliances: Mrs B took a historical view and wanted the gap filled that had been left by the old broken cupboards:Mr B just wanted a long spell of peace and quiet in the boisterous household.

Eventually the exact model was chosen according to the following characteristics:

1. The all-important motor that drives the whole vast contraption must run with teutonic efficiency and reliability. Its awesome power could be worrying, and the noise may invade the living-room, so the kitchen doors must be kept shut at all times. Hopefully the power source will never be cut off and our food turn to mush, but due to the external power source there's not much point worrying about this possibility.

2. The freezer section must be solid and dependable, capable of holding a great weight of produce, and so boring you don't even notice it's there. It will hold items like Swedes and other root vegetables that you know are good for you, but you don't really like.

3. The fridge section must be stylish, showy and full of its own self-importance. Although we love it, and it's the main reason we bought the appliance, without the motor it really would just be a box with shelves in.

4. The drinks dispenser- oh joy! It must make us dream of long, hot summer days when an iced drink is so inviting. It's super stylish, but we know it will never be properly plumbed-in, so it will be pure style without function.

5. The small accessories that come with the fridge will be impressive, but probably of varying usefulness and quality. The plucky little thermostat must do its best to co-ordinate all the functions of the leviathan. The shelves will groan with delicious produce but only work at all as part of the whole fridge. As for the egg-holder thingies, we'd rather leave them out of the fridge, but then eggs can be awfully messy when they break, so they'd best be kept inside at all times, just in case.

6. The exterior of the fridge is loved by some members of the family and loathed by others. Some think it sleek, stylish and cool in an understated sort of way, whilst others think it grey, dull and boring. Whatever the point of view, it's quite different from the interior parts and is always hanging around the edges of the appliance. It must have a dependable, long-lasting quality- and must by it's very nature always be on the outside.

Customer satisfaction certainly can't be guaranteed by the appliance suppliers, but let's just hope the shock of the credit card bill doesn't mean that it has to be sold off again sometime soon......

Did you spot which part of the fridge is your country? ( Apologies if you have been relegated to the accessories section!)

 

KEY Motor-Germany, freezer section-Scandinavia, fridge section-France, thermostat- Belgium, shelves- Spain and Portugal, Egg trays- Balkan states, drinks dispenser-Italy, exterior-UK.

 

 

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