N is for… Never

*The theme for my A to Z is Childhood Stories. Some are real, some are embellished, some are downright fictional but are based on the kind of things I imagined when I was younger.*

As a child, when I knew something, I knew it with the kind of iron-clad certainty that had one of my primary school teachers write in my report card: “Celine would benefit from occasionally admitting that she is wrong.”

Two instances in particular stand out in my memory, of times when I harboured an unshakeable, iron-clad certainty, only to be proven quite spectacularly wrong.

The first was when I was very young. One day I announced that I’d NEVER misbehave. I’d always do as I was told, I’d always be a good girl.

That’s very good, said my parents, but you won’t always think like that. Would I hell. I was more sure of this than I had been about anything in my short life. Never ever would I be bad.

My parents are full of wisdom and experience. Understanding that a verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s not printed on, they had me write up a letter, confirming that I would always do exactly as I was told. I saw no problem with this since I knew for a certainty that I would never misbehave.

I wrote the letter. I signed it.

I’ll leave you to guess how long it took me to break my contract.

(It was, by the way, pretty rich of me to claim that I would never be bad, considering that not long before that I stole and ate a big bunch of sugar cubes, and then tried to blame by 6 month old brother)

The second iron-clad certainty I had, was in my teens. I announced that NEVER would I have an English boyfriend — and I announced this repeatedly. Despite growing up in England I had decided for some reason that I didn’t like the English. It would be a French boyfriend for me, and later a French husband. Never mind that I spoke more English than French with my friends, that said friends were all partly English, that I had never lived in France and that I had no intention of ever living there.

You never know, said my parents, you might very well end up with an English boy. Never, I scoffed. I was as sure of that as I had been of anything in my life so far. Never ever would I have an English boyfriend.

Lucky for me, my parents didn’t have me sign a letter this time.

As it turned out, I exclusively dated English men. And guess what? The Husband is about as English as they come. I think playing cricket and having Talbot as a middle name even qualifies one for Extreme Englishness.

My parents still tease me about both instances.


PS: For anyone wondering, Extreme Englishness is a kind of extreme sport which involves barbecuing in the rain, making as little eye contact with strangers as is humanly possible, and acting as though ‘Brown Sauce’ is one of the major food groups. It goes without saying that all this has to be done while engaging in the kind of rapid-fire, witty banter that leaves us Europeans lagging several trains behind.

PPS: For anyone wondering what the hell Brown Sauce is, nobody knows. It isn’t BBQ sauce, it isn’t ketchup, it simply is. Some people say that it is made from the tears of badgers, mixed with the taste of batteries and old sausage fat. My advice, if you haven’t tried it, is don’t.


45 thoughts on “N is for… Never

  1. Lovely amusing post Celine thank you! The English love to come here to South Africa and have a proper barbecue, although we call it a ‘braaivleis’ ‘vleis’ meaning meat and braai is fire. And of course plenty of beer, sunny skies …


    • I’ve only ever heard it referred to in South Africa as braai, didn’t realise it was part of a longer word. But I do agree that you do a braai well – mainly because you get so much better weather! 😉


  2. Your best yet! Brown sauce – hilarious. I agree it’s vile. I wonder if it can be scientifically proven that the people who like it are the same ones who like Marmite? I hate both, my husband loves them.


  3. Errr…don’t try brown sauce? Are you kidding me? HP sauce is the sauce of gods. I even used to eat toast and brown sauce as my go to breakfast food growing up, double portions when I was poorly (admittedly writing that out does make it sound a bit weird).
    I am force feeding you brown sauce from hereon in until you succumb to its delicious umami tastes!!


    • Haha, good luck with that. I ain’t having none of that stuff.
      I wouldn’t trade my amazing breakfasts for your brown sauce and toast for the world! I’ll keep it in mind for next time you’re poorly though and I’ll bring you toast and HP sauce.


  4. How funny that all your comments are about brown sauce. I was going to jump to its defence too. Trivia: HP stands for House of Parliament as that’s where the glorious stuff was first served. Great post 🙂 I find the further away from England I am, the more extreme my Englishness becomes.


    • Ooh, nice bit of trivia! Ok now HP sauce has gone up an increment in my estimation. And yes I’ve had a right chuckle to see all the brits rushing to brown sauce’s defence!! haha.
      Where are you living now by the way? We’re in Hong Kong and while I’m no Frencher now than I was before, I’m certainly very nostalgic for all things british (other than brown sauce obviously!)


  5. Extreme Englishness sounds a lot like Extreme Canadianess, except Canadians can’t be bothered to stick to anything firmly enough for it to be considered “Extreme.”

    And I made similar promises and oaths when I was a kid. If I had followed through with everything I swore I would do when I was little, I would now be a Catholic priest/musician who only plays Richie Valens music/professional game designer/master LEGO builder.


    • Haha, following the Canadian stereotype, extremeness would be extreme mildness. To quote The Mighty Boosh, Extreme Canadianism is probably like being caressed by a natural yoghurt 😉

      If you had become all of those things combined into one, that would have been pretty awesome!


  6. Haha! I love this! You know, Extreme Englishness sounds almost like Swedishness, we have brown sauce (though it’s like a gravy, so it’s not really mysterious) and we don’t really do the eye-contact thing here either. We don’t barbeque in the rain, but we do like to eat ice cream when it’s freezing out. 😀


    • Sorry, I can’t help the joke – but wouldn’t Extreme Swedisnhess involve the ultra fast assembly of ikea furniture? 😉

      I actually lived in Stockholm for a year when I was five (this was where I lost my first tooth and got worried the mouse wouldn’t find me). I loved it there, but I remember my mother really struggled with the dark winters. I’d love to go back as an adult at some point.


  7. Hadn’t heard of brown sauce, but I have to say it doesn’t sound very appetizing. But then again, I thought our tradition of putting gravy and cheese on fries was gross too…until I tried it.

    I did say when I was a child that I’d never have kids. Everyone told me I’d change my mind. Some people are still saying that, but pretty soon Mother Nature is going to confirm my original choice. 🙂


    • Cheese and gravy on fries? What part of the world are you from that you do that? I can see the cheese being awesome, but the gravy? Then again the Welsh put curry sauce on their fries so… Different strokes for different folks!! 😉


  8. “Rapid-fire, witty banter,” that of Extreme Englishness. I love it. I see you’ve picked up a bit of the wit in your writing, which I have enjoyed reading. I have a very English upraising — maternal great grandparents coming to America from Lancashire, and English otherwise in the family. We had that English sense of humor, and had a formal, British way of speaking. When I moved to Southern California as an adult, from Philadelphia, my Californian friends laughed at my manner of speech. I learned to be more laid back.

    Connected with you, Celine, via Susan Scott’s Garden of Eden Blog. Nice to meet you on the A-Zs.


  9. After reading this, I had to ask my brother, “Have you ever barbequed in the rain?” And as it turns out, he has, which may also qualify HIM for Extreme Englishness, even though we’re not English. (I’ve barbequed in the rain, but not by choice, and I don’t particularly like brown sauce — although I do like it better than ketchup.)


  10. It seems that whenever one makes a boastful statement is the time they are proved wrong fairly shortly afterwards. I try hard not to fall into that trap though its happened a few times. I loved the short story.

    Sean at His and Her Hobbies


  11. Hmmm….very interesting! I had no idea about Extreme Englishness or “Brown sauce” although it probably can’t be worse than that condensed cream soup in a can that shows up in every casserole at every church picnic in America. ewww.


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