Apropos of nothing

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

This is a catch-all posts that lets me cross a few items off my “Blog About This” list.  These are small things I’ve noticed that are odd or interesting or annoying, but also things that even I can’t churn out a whole blog post about.  So let’s launch another new tag for the sidebar and dive in.

On the Dickensian nature of locks and keys:

When I started work way back last September, I was issued a set of keys.  These are my keys:

I’m not kidding.  I have three skeleton keys on my ring for work (and one that goes with my keys for home).  These are not ancient keys passed down for generations that fit locks installed sometime when Victoria was still on the throne.  These are keys that were freshly cut for me, to open recently-manufactured locks installed in normal, modern doors.  And no one finds this strange.  I have certainly encountered more familiar keys, but they are no more common than this crazy Ebenezer Scrooge variety.

And padlocks? Many of them are equally charming / baffling / annoying.   Yes, you can get the kind of padlocks we North Americans are all familiar with: a heavy-duty rectangular body with the spring-loaded u-shaped thingy that pops up and open when you turn the key and can be snapped shut even if there’s no key present.  However, a significant percentage of the padlocks I’ve encountered over here have been like this:

First you have to slide over the little flap to reveal a big keyhole-shaped keyhole.  Then you insert a skeleton key which always fits very loosely and requires much wiggling to settle in properly.  Then you turn - which direction is anyone’s guess.  If you’ve chosen the right direction, the main bit flops away from the u-shaped bit in an unenthusiastic way that clearly indicates nothing as advanced as a spring is involved.  To close the lock you have to hold the whole thing shut with one hand, shove aside the little flap, insert the key again, wiggle wiggle wiggle, turn, no no turn the OTHER way, no no keep the thing held shut WHILE you’re turning, no no no… the OTHER OTHER way… and so on.  I mean honestly, what am I , Bob Cratchit?  The next thing you know I’ll be having to ask for an extra shovel-full of coal to make a spark of heat while I scratch away with my quill pen…

On the impenetrable nature of oven dial labeling:

So if locks and keys are so Olde Worlde then why is the oven so complicated that I – a reasonably experience home cook – have absolutely no idea how to turn it on in any kind of predictable way? I mean what am I to make of this?:

Oven Dial
It seems that these symbols indicate different combinations of top element, fan, and bottom element.  So how come when I turn it to top bar – empty space – bottom bar, I can still hear a fan?  Is the fan always on?  Does that mean when you turn it to top bar – asterisk – bottom bar, the fan goes on more?  And if top bar – asterisk – bottom bar is the equivalent of “all engines on full” why does it take 30 or 40 minutes to cook a lousy frozen pizza when the same process took about 16 minutes in my primitive Winnipeg-based oven that only had a temperature dial?

And what about all those other symbols? Like that one at about one o’clock on the dial: “European Union Symbol Surrounding Black Snowflake”.  Maybe it’s a setting for producing EU-compliant licorice-flavoured Baked Alaska?  Then there’s the one at about 2:30 that looks a bit like a Tim Hortons sour cream glazed donut - that could be promising.  But what about five o’clock, that when rotated into the active position at the top of the dial appears to be tiny triangles suspended over, or perhaps falling into the symbol for the fan?  Huh?  I’m sure there was once a manual for the device that explained all these hieroglyphics, but it departed the house long before I arrived, so all I ever do is turn the thing to the setting I think of as “Full Whack” and hope for the best.
Oh, and it’s not even called the oven here, it’s called the cooker.  And it’s not topped with a stove, or even a range.  The bit on top with the burners? That’s the hob.

(Interesting cooker-related side note: Over here “grill” means “apply intense heat from above”, not “cook over an open flame / BBQ-like thing or otherwise apply intense heat from below".  Grilling something here means putting it under the grill, which is the top element in the oven – what we’d call the broiler.  So a grilled cheese sandwich doesn’t exist here, or at least not as we know it.)

On the parallel universe nature of stationery products:

Standard loose paper over here is not 8-1/2” x 11”.  It’s A4.  In fact, much of the rest of the world except North America uses the A(something) system for paper sizes (technically called the International paper size standard ISO 216, and “based on a single aspect ratio of the square root of 2”…whatever…).  A4 is slightly taller and slightly narrower than 8-1/2” x 11”, which seemed weird at first but now feels totally normal.  Now when I encounter a rare letter-sized sheet it seems oddly squat.

And you know the bog-standard three-ring binder?  No such thing over here.  Binders here have two rings, or sometimes four, but never three. 

And Liquid Paper is called Tipp-ex.  But just like Liquid Paper, it’s become a generic noun and a verb too.  At home, you liquid paper a mistake. Here, you tippex it.

And a ballpoint pen is a biro (“BUY-roe”).

And scotch tape is sellotape.

It’s like the whole universe of stationery in North American and UK  diverged very very slightly a hundred years ago, resulting in a completely familiar yet subtley different parallel system.  I mean it’s not like we’re writing with syringes of squid ink on 3D spherical pages bound into concentric onion-layered note-globes and housed in giant filing vaults shaped like gumball machines.  The differences are subtle but noticeable.

On the magical nature of the Belisha Beacon:

A Belisha Beacon (“buh-LEE-shuh”) is a particular type of pedestrian crossing marked by tall black-and-white striped poles topped with flashing yellow globes.  They’re named after Leslie Hore-Belisha, who introduced them in 1934 as Minister of Transport.  Belisha Beacons are the ultimate in road crossings because they require no action on the part of the pedestrian.  You don’t have to wait for a light or push a button or anything; they’re always on and the lights are always flashing.  All you do is step out into the street and any vehicles are required to stop.  And amazingly, they pretty much always do. 

Here is a rare triple-barreled Belisha Beacon in my old Arsenal stomping grounds.  Three crossings, meeting at a centre island.  Watch how the car just automatically stops for the guy!


I might write more about pedestrian crossings in general some time, if only because there are so many different kinds and they have the BEST names: zebra crossing, pelican crossing, penguin crossing - even toucan and pegasus crossings. (Apparently it’s a zoo out there.)

Oh, and you know how traffic lights at home start green, then go yellow, then red, then back to green?  Here, they start green, then go yellow, then red, then yellow again, then back to green.  This gives drivers stopped at a red light the chance to rev up and get primed for the green light, so as to save precious nanoseconds on start-up (as opposed to North American drivers, who have to watch the lights in the other direction to achieve the same goal).

And finally, apropos of kind of everything:

On the nature of life in general as related to This Time Last Year:

On this day last year, May 31, 2010, I boarded a plane in San Francisco and flew home to Winnipeg after being away for 351 days and circumnavigating the globe.  An entire year has passed since my big trip ended and just like that year I can’t believe how quickly this one has gone by.  In some ways I feel like I’ve done so much less this year.  I mean I haven’t ridden an elephant in the last twelve months, or run on the Great Wall of China, or even spent the night wandering the Duty Free shopping concourse of the Dubai Airport.  I’m such a slacker.

Then again I have managed to set myself up in a completely new country, starting from scratch.  I came over nine months ago with a small-ish wheelie suitcase and a resume full of Canadian experience and Canadian references.  Now I’ve got a room full of stuff, and a proper full-time job in my chosen field, and real professional contacts that I’ve earned, and friends and routines and running routes and favourite tv shows and a working knowledge of the London bus system.  It’s all not nearly as exotic as an elephant ride, but it’s much more real, and more meaningful.  And when I think about it, I’m quietly proud of how far I’ve come.

Now what about next year?

Off the tourist track: Brixton Market

Monday, May 23, 2011

I slept in last Saturday following a Friday night of after-work drinks with a couple of colleagues that turned into far too may rounds of “just one more”, but was also really good for the soul.  I was immensely happy and relieved to hear one of my companions report that, though he’d only been back in town for a few days, he’d already heard some good things about me from others in the business, and reassured me that I’m doing fine and should just bide my time and wait for the right next move.  So I was more than pleased to while away four and a half hours in a genial pub with cheap drinks (£2.70 for a pint! In the West End! Unbelievable!) and lap up any words of praise or encouragement I could get, along with about five pints of beer.

So when Saturday morning rolled around I was very happy to sleep in and woke feeling only slightly fragile.  Somewhat dehydrated and definitely in need of refueling, I decided it was time to scout out a local cafe that had been recommended and was sure to serve up a proper Full English Breakfast (which will definitely be another post).  The Phoenix Cafe turned out to be exactly what I needed, and wasn’t even close to as full as I thought it might be on a Saturday morning.  Properly fed, and with the morning paper read, I was in a state of perfect contentment and decided to have a wander around my local market and blog about it.

When you think about the markets of London there are a many that are likely to show up on the average tourist’s list – Covent Garden, Portobello Road, New Spitalfields, Borough Market, Brick Lane, even Camden Market.  But you’d have to get quite far down that list to end up at Brixton Market.  In fact, I’d venture to say that all of Brixton is very much outside most tourists experience of London, which makes it lucky for you that your humble blogger lives in Brixton, and can tell you all about its charms without the knee-jerk reactions most native Londoners have to the place.  I promise you more on the neighbourhood in another post; for now, let’s have a stroll through the market.

The first cool thing about Brixton Market is where it’s located.  Just around the corner from Brixton tube station, the main street that runs through the Market area is this one:

Electric Avenue Cropped
Yes, it is THAT Electric Avenue.  The one we gonna rock down to.  The street was built in the 1880s and was one of the first streets to have electric lights.  It’s an unremarkable street now, but when I walk down it I hear that song my head and I get that sense of somewhereness that’s a lot of what makes London so special for me. 

But the market itself isn’t confined to one street.  Electric Avenue might form the backbone of it, but even there the shops that line the street – butchers and fishmongers and fruits and veg shops and such - are supplemented by temporary stalls that set up in the middle of the road, which gets closed to vehicle traffic.  Smaller streets run off to the sides too, and stretch over to the railway arches under the train line that runs through the area.

Fishy fish
Fishmonger's daily wares.

ArcadeAlong with all those shops and stalls there are three different covered market arcades that house even more shops and restaurants with even more odd and excellent offerings.  The arcades are great – you wander into one and take a turn or two and get distracted and end up getting spit out onto the street at the end and have to take a minute to get your bearings before diving in to another one.

In 2007 two of the arcades were sold to a property developer, who intended to remove the existing structure and create “a 10 story privately owned residential tower block and private park, above a new market building” (Wikipedia).  Sounds charming doesn’t it?  Luckily concerns were raised, and a group called the Friends of Brixton Market, along with market traders and local residents, lobbied against the proposals.  Finally in 2010, the government reversed a previous decision and declared all three arcades Grade II listed buildings, meaning they can’t be demolished, extended or altered without special permission from the local planning authority.  Yay for Brixton!

DIY Toast 3During that time, the arcades enjoyed a bit of a rennaissance, largely due to a local initiative that helped fill many empty stalls with new small businesses.  This means that there’s been some renewal and a bit of the kind of gentrification that goes along with that.  There are still some empty shops in the arcades, but there are also new cafés and shops that have brought a nice mix to the place.  You can still get cassava root and papayas and other fruit and vegetable-like things I can’t identify.  And the arcades are still home to the first (and purportedly best) pizza joint in London.  But you can also sit and have a nice cup of café au lait or buy a loaf of gluten free bread.  You can even make your own toast!

Yes, there has been some gentrification, but Brixton Market still feels like a REAL place. Brixton’s huge Afro-Caribbean community colours the whole neighbourhood, and the market is no exception.  So while there is one stand selling Nutella-filled crepes made while-you-wait, there are probably ten selling plantains or halal meat.  And the butchers and fishmongers don’t hide behind their counters wearing boater hats – they’re out in the street drumming up business, like the fruit-stall guys who call you “luv” or “mate”. 

Part of the realness of Brixton Market means that, along with the usual suspects – apples, bananas, onions, chicken, blah blah blah – you can also find a frankly dizzying array of the kind of thing that doesn’t always show up at the local Tesco, and almost certainly not at your more touristy markets: hair extensions, fish heads by the pound, cheap luggage, bedazzled cell phone accessories, skin care products, area rugs, pig’s trotters, six-packs of boxer shorts, flatware, fishnet stockings, wigs, tripe, nail varnish, and goat meat.

Button BinFrankly, I thought that price was a bit steep.

StockingsGreat for stocking up.  (Groan…)

Brixton Market is a real place.  It’s there for the people who live in the neighbourhood, not to entice tourists with a tidy, sanitized version of a London Market.  There’s nothing wrong with a turn through Covent Garden, especially if you’ve got souvenirs to buy or haven’t seen your share of living statues.  But if you’ve got a few hours on a Saturday morning and a hankering for something a bit different you could do worse than to have a wander through Brixton Market.  I’m not saying you should skip the Tower of London in favour of the DIY toast place, but just think about it, you know?  And if it all gets a bit too scary there’s a Starbucks right next to Brixton tube station and a 24-hour McDonald’s at the main intersection, so you know you’ll always have somewhere to retreat.  But first try the toast.

A good day to be English

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

First things first – I know it’s been approximately a decade since the last new post, but this has been one of those times I warned you about at the beginning.  I was a bit busy doing 140 hours of work in two weeks with nary a day off in sight, so you can understand that it was all I could do to manage to keep myself clothed and fed, let alone bang out a few thousand words for you lot.  Sorry, but that’s how it goes now that you’re dealing with a more-than-full-time worker and part time blogger.  Now on to today’s post:

I know it’s ancient history now, but you may have heard we had a little wedding over here a few weeks ago.  In fact I suspect 99.87% of everyone on the planet heard about it, the only exceptions being a few undiscovered tribes in the Amazon rainforest, and even they probably saw the sky-writing speculating on who designed Kate Middleton’s dress and were scouted as a possible honeymoon location.  Over here at the epicentre of it all the media saturation was total.  You could not move, blink or breathe without encountering some kind of Royal Wedding coverage, meaning that everyone in the UK had a choice to make on that day – to watch or not to watch.  I wouldn’t call myself a staunch Royalist or anything, but I do have a soft spot for the Royal Family in general and for William and Harry in particular.  After all, I saw their mother’s wedding on a tiny black and white tv in the dining shelter at the Pike Lake Guide Camp when I was 12 years old.  How could I not get out and try to take part when the next chapter was happening right on my doorstep (and in my time zone)?

So I told them I was taking the day off from work - yes, it was a Bank Holiday, but there was a lot of work to be done so there was a full complement on duty (“The show must go on” and all that crap…).  And I pored over the Evening Standard’s coverage of who would be seen where and when, and I made a vague plan. 

(Brief aside about the coverage of all that “who would be seen where and when” stuff.  It was really precise.  I’m just recalling this from memory, so don’t quote me on these times, but it was something like this:

10:44am: Prince William and Prince Harry depart from Clarence House for Westminster Abbey
10:46am: The car carrying Prince William and Prince Harry passes through the arch at Horse Guards
10:48am and 45 seconds: Prince William and Prince Harry arrive at Westminster Abbey’s Great West Door… and so on

As I was reading this I was thinking to myself, “How can they be so accurate with these timings? I mean the traffic around Parliament Square is always a nightm… oh… wait a minute… there won’t BE any traffic.  That car will be the only vehicle moving in about a 2 mile radius.  So yeah, I guess that would be about right…)

Anyway, my vague plan was this:
  1. Take the tube to Green Park station (near Buckingham Palace). 
  2. Walk around trying to find a spot to see something from.
  3. Try not to get frustrated when this did not work out.
  4. Repair to a nice pub to watch the whole thing on tv.
The crowds at Green Park tube were not bad, and I saw a few people dressed up including a whole gang of about ten women wearing the famous blue dress that Kate Middleton wore for the engagement announcement and dragging little wheelie suitcases.  And I bought myself a Union Jack flag to wave at appropriate moments (only £1! I was expecting to get fleeced for much more than that).  Then I started walking, trying to make my way towards The Mall (pronounced, bizarrely, to rhyme with the the diminutive form of Albert) (I’m not kidding), which was where all the comings and goings would be.  Of course the streets were blocked to vehicle traffic, but I was really surprised to see that they were also blocked to pedestrians as well.  Any access point to The Mall or Whitehall or any other street where important things would be happening was attended by police who warned that the entire area was closed off due to safety concerns because of the size of the crowd.

(Another aside: “safety concerns” is more commonly heard as “health and safety”, or with the right accent “elfin safety”, which always makes me picture a band of tiny sprites kitted out in hard hats and shoes with curled up steel toes.  There is much much much more to say about the Health and Safety culture here, and the sometimes crazy lengths it’s taken to, and the backlash that usually comes with these lengths which is always accompanied by at least one quote from an irate member of the public claiming that whatever he’s cross about is “Health and safety gone mad!”. But for now let’s just remember those sensible pointy-toed imps and get back to the wedding.)

With no other option, I was eventually funneled into Trafalgar Square, which turned out to be just fine.  Considering I hadn’t been even slightly interested in camping out at Westminster Abbey from Tuesday onwards to secure a prime spot, I knew that chances of getting to see anything live were slim.  So Trafalgar Square it was, and it was packed.

P1080048 This is just part of the crowd in the main section of the square.  The digital sign off to the left is counting down the number of days, hours, minutes and seconds left until the Olympics!

They had two giant video screens set up – the larger one facing towards the National Gallery, and a smaller (but still by no means small) one facing vaguely towards the Thames near the Waterstones bookstore (You know, by the Pret a Manger… no… the other Pret a Manger…) (Ok, that was a joke for Londoners only, I think.  North Americans please substitute Starbucks for Pret a Manger and you’ll get it).  I did a circuit of the square, noted what tacky souvenirs were on offer, made a few purchases, and scouted out a place to get comfy.  I ended up standing with a good view of the smaller screen and by the time things started happening I was content to just watch and listen with everyone else, and wave the flag (literally) at all the right moments.

P1080059Flags, the big screen, and the happy couple

So technically I ended up watching the whole thing on tv just like everyone else except the few hundred people actually inside Westminster Abbey.  But honestly it was much better than sitting at home watching.  The crowd was big, but everyone was happy and friendly, and there was a nice buzz in the air despite the grey skies.  And when they got to the part in the ceremony when the congregation at the Abbey sang “Jerusalem” lots of people in the square sang along (“And did these feeeeeet, in ancient tiiimes, walk up-on Eng-land’s moun-tains greeeeeeeeeen….).  Some people (myself included) even had a copy of the service to follow along to the lyrics.  And there was lots of cheering and flag waving at all the right moments. 

And then, at the very end, they sang “God Save the Queen”, and that’s when it really hit me.  There I was, in Trafalgar Square, in a crowd of thousands of people, and it was all about being English and being proud to be English and being happy to be there and to be celebrating such a simple, joyful thing.  I don’t mind saying I got a little choked up as I was singing.  I’ve sung “God Save the Queen” hundreds of times in my life, but it never hit me like it did that day.

I took some decent video that day, but it ended up being in some weird format and it’s not downloading from my camera properly, so you’ll just have to watch this Youtube thing taken by someone who understands his camera better (except for the part where he zooms in and loses the sound...).  And though it looks like there aren’t many people singing, it really didn’t feel like that.  It really felt very very cool.

I stuck around a while longer after the ceremony was over, but there was no way I was going to hang about long enough to watch The Kiss On The Balcony.  Instead, I made my way over to Embankment tube station, and bought a few more souvenirs, and then legged it home and watched The Big Kiss from the comfort of my couch, with a nice cup of tea.  And then I went off to celebrate the 2000th running of the London Hash House Harriers, which is most definitely another story.

Swots, boffins and anoraks: Words about people

Sunday, May 1, 2011

More additions to the glossary.  This time, our theme is words describing people.

anorak = Yes, technically an anorak is one of those wind/waterproof jackets, but that’s not what you’re here to find out, is it?  Colloquially, an anorak is that particular type of person who pursues an odd and useless hobby obsessively.  Generally poor in social situations, trainspotters are classic anoraks.  Perhaps used thusly: “Gerard has got a complete set of milk bottle lid liners featuring all the characters from ‘E.T. The Extraterrestrial’  He cornered me at Janet’s party last week to explain the difference between the early edition Drew Barrymore lid liner with a typo and the later, corrected version, printed with different ink.  It took me 45 minutes to escape.  Christ, he’s such an anorak!”

nutter = just what it sounds like.  In North America we’d say “nutcase” or “nut job”.

white van man = a rude, aggressive driver.  Derived from the fact that many tradesmen such as builders, plumbers and electricians drive small panel vans commonly painted white to make it easier to put the “Joe’s Plumbing” logo on the side.  Stereotypically a white van man is an overweight, chauvinist, wolf-whistling, rude-gesturing, speeding, obscenity-hurling tail-gater with builder’s butt (a.k.a plumber’s crack).

git = a mildly derogatory term for someone who’s useless, annoying or troublesome.  Can also be used among friends in mocking derision, as in: “Quit your moaning you’ve just won the lottery you lucky git.”

wanker = literally, one who masturbates.  More generally it’s a catch-all derogatory term for someone North Americans might describe as a jerk (note the similar etymology), bastard or asshole.

swot = pronounced “swat”, like what you would do to a mosquito.  Swot is a term for someone who does well in school and studies hard.  Often used contemptuously by someone who does not do well in school and does not study hard.  Sometimes used, with typical English false modesty, by people describing themselves: “Yeah, I got 23 A levels in school.  I was a right little swot.”

Geordie = Someone from the area of Newcastle upon Tyne, in the north east of England.  Also, a supporter of Newcastle United Football Club.  Geordies tend to have a brilliant accent which, when laid on thick, is basically indecipherable to outsiders.  Here it is demonstrated in its milder form by a claymation mouse.  How cute is that?

And here it is, laid on thick:

bloke = utterly commonplace term for a male person.  Used the same way, and with the same frequency that North Americans would use “guy”.

toe rag = a somewhat out-of-fashion word meaning either a worthless, dirty, disgusting person or a sly,  deceptive or slightly criminal type, or possibly both.  Online sources claim that toe rag has mostly passed out of use in favour of terms like tosser and wanker, but I did hear it in the wild from a native speaker not too long ago, and I just like it, so I include it here.

slag = a derogatory term for a promiscuous woman. “That Teresa has a revolving door to her bedroom.  She’s such a slag.”

toff = refers to an upper class person, usually male, and almost certainly educated at public school.  (Note: a public school is exactly the opposite of what it sounds like.  Not public at all, they are, in fact, very private and very expensive.)  A toff is born to the title, and is likely to have a passing acquaintance with polo (not just the shirts), Abercrombie & Fitch and at least one woman named Tabitha.  David Cameron (the current Prime Minister of the UK) is a toff, though he desperately tries to distance himself from that label to the extent that he first claimed he would wear a business suit (not tails) to the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.  Media reports claimed this was because of a photo that surfaced years ago showing him in morning dress (tails) as a member of the Bullingdon Club at Oxford, thus forever cementing his status as a toff. (from The Telegraph).

Cameron Johnson ToffsThe famous photo of the Bullingdon Club.  Cameron is pictured second from the left at the back. Also pictured is a young Boris Johnson, current Mayor of London, seated on the right. Johnson is also most certainly a toff.  (Poor man, how could he NOT be, when his full name is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson?)
geezer = A generic term for any male person, not just a very old one

boffin = Ah, the great British boffin.  It’s a term used to describe someone who is an expert in a scientific or technical field, often one that’s also somewhat arcane.  It shows up in newspaper articles when some new bit of technical wizardry is unveiled, as in “The boffins at Apple have developed the new iPed, a foot-controlled touchscreen device for use by the flip-flop crowd.”  I suppose it’s roughly equivalent to “nerd”, but used with more affection and even some respect, as if people have realized that boffins may wear pocket protectors, but they also built the space shuttle.  This doesn’t stop kids from using it as an insult directed at anyone showing a spark of intelligence.

punter = a generic, somewhat dismissive term for customer.  Punter once specifically meant someone who frequents race tracks and bets on horses (or bets on thing in general), and extended to mean a customer of a prostitute, but is now used more generically.  As in “We’re just giving the punters what they want.” 

tosser = Originally may have derived from “toss pot” which is apparently an old sailor’s term for someone who drinks a lot.  Now it’s used interchangeably with wanker, though it’s perhaps slightly less harsh.

Scouser = a person from Liverpool.  Also with a distinctive accent, The Beatles are probably the most famous Scousers of all time.

Jamie Carragher, a Scouser and footballer who plays for Liverpool, demonstrating a strong Scouse accent.  Thank you for the subtitles.

mate = friend.  Much, much, more commonly used than “friend”, mostly by men.

grass = not a term for marijuana.  Instead, a grass is a snitch – someone who tells on others, especially to the authorities.  Can also be used as a verb as in, “That little toe rag grassed on me to the headmaster!”

chav = also chavvy, pronounced with the hard CH like in “cheese”.  A chav is that particular type of aggressive teenager (or even their parents and grandparents), usually from a working class background, that wears a large, stiff-peaked baseball cap (often at a 90 degree angle), a track suit, and a bizarre amount of chunky, shiny jewelry.  Best known for engaging in anti-social behaviour, congregating on street corners, heavy drinking, drug-taking and general rowdiness.  Bizarrely, chavs have adopted the Burberry tartan as their tribal dress to such a degree that Burberry itself now only uses the distinctive tan, black and red pattern on inner linings and other low-key articles. (I declined to go out to capture a picture of chavs in their native habitat, because I am not stupid.)

slapper = another word for a woman who will sleep with anyone.  Any time.  Anywhere.

jobsworth = The kind of pedantic git you encounter in the workplace who adheres to rules with fanatical strictness, often against all reason.  Part “work to rule” and part jerk, a jobsworth is usually a low-ranking employee, technically untouchable (because they are, after all, just following procedure) and universally loathed.  A jobsworth will exercise what tiny authority he might legitimately have to the greatest extent possible.  The term derives from the oft-repeated phrase uttered by the common jobsworth: “I’m sorry I can’t let you do that, it’s more than my job’s worth.”  For fans of “The Office” (US version), Dwight Shrute is a classic jobsworth.