Fuzzy and the Travelers' Divorce

on Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Who is your archetypal Englishman? Who best represents that icon that is the representative of all things English? I refer to that stereotype of that gentleman's gentleman who is impeccably dressed in pinstripes or suit and is complimented with a bowler hat; who is unflappable, honest to a fault; has that queer sense of fair play; has a dry sarcastic understated sense of humor; is so patriotic that he wears the Union Jack as his undies; speaks the Queen's English better than the Queen; defender of tradition and fine etiquette and stoically holding up the stiff upper lip, eh what! Oh yes, and always has time for a civilized cup of tea.

For many, it is Sir John Steed of the Avengers. Sir John Steed was played by Patrick MacNee for many years on the British television series and more recently by Ralph Fiennes in the 1998 movie version.

For me, the archetypal Englishman is represented best by my friend Fuzzy (name changed to protect the guilty). Apart from all the characteristics mentioned above, he is also smart, charming and chivalrous in the ancient sense of the word. Well, alright, I'll admit that I have never seen him in Union Jack undies but it wouldn't surprise me if he had them. Fuzzy is so English, the big surprise is that he is not Anglo-Saxon. Nor is he Norman, Welsh, Irish, Scot, Celt or any tribe of the British Isles. In fact, although he was born in England, his roots is actually Egyptian Coptic. He does not look English but Egyptian. Nevertheless, Fuzzy could out Steed Steed, if you know what I mean.

To prove this, I shall relate a little tale from our travels backpacking and train tramping through Europe. I call this story "Fuzzy and the Travelers' Divorce".

My big European adventure started out with Fuzzy and I traveling together. I was prepared to rough it out. As we had both bought train passes for the whole month, we planned to save money by traveling and sleeping on the trains as much as possible. We expected most of our meals to consist of bread and cheese or pate and supplemented with an apple or banana . For eating utensils, I had packed one plastic knife in my backpack.

To my surprise, when we arrived in Belgium at the start of our adventure, Fuzzy calmly walked into a train station cafeteria and emerged with a full set of plastic cutlery and I do mean a full set of cutlery. Subsequently, whenever we stopped to have a meal, whether on the train or under the open sky, he would spread a napkin between us where we would place our bread and cheese. He would then ceremoniously lay out his cutlery. There were forks, spoons and knives for both of us. There were even dessert spoons and teaspoons. All were neatly arranged as if in a restaurant. He did this even if all we had was stale bread. "There's no need to eat like savages" he'd say.

Now, we had intended to travel together for the entire trip but we had very opposite goals. I wanted to go to Norway and he wanted to go to Greece. After much discussion, we agreed to go to Norway first and then to go together to Greece. What can I say? I defaulted. After going to Norway, we were traveling through Austria on the way to Greece when I just made up my mind that I did not want to go to Greece. I reasoned that at that point, I had only about 10 days left in my holidays and did not want to spend half of that time just sitting on the train to and from Greece. I broke this news to Fuzzy and he was not happy but reacted in his typical stoic stiff upper lip form.

As we were about to part ways, we took stock of what we had to divvy up. We had been sharing a single travel guide book that I had bought so I took it on myself to tear the book so as to give Fuzzy all the sections on Greece and other places that he needed. Fuzzy received those pages with appreciation.

Fuzzy then ceremoniously took out his cutlery and started to divide the cutlery. I kept telling him that I really only needed a knife and maybe one spoon but he would not have it. He insisted that each of us should have a full set of cutlery and he divided between us what he had and raided the train restaurant car to make up what was missing. And so when we finally parted ways, we were both fully equipped and "There was no need for either of us to eat like savages".

Fuzzy is the ultimate English gentleman, don't you think? I will relate more Fuzzy stories in the future, including why I call him Fuzzy.


Jocelyn said...

What a lovely companion, even though his need for civilization apparently doesn't also entail a "no stealing" clause. Heh-heh.

For me, the penultimate Englishman was Anthony Hopkins in REMAINS OF THE DAY, as the repressed butler. I find that one of the best performances I've ever seen a male actor give (as long as I'm going off on a tangent, the other male acting performance that impressed me was Robert Duvall in LONESOME DOVE).


kat said...

How about David Niven :-) as an archetype?
esp with that thin little moustache....

I love British actors in general but cannot name a favorite.

I love your Brit and his cutlery!

Yes, the Finer Things in Life can be made entirely of Plastic!

the walking man said...

I was more of your sort Squirrel...a knife was more than sufficient to accomplish all meal related duties.

I think in the modern age Sid Viscous was the ultimate Englishman.


Huh. What a neat guy, your Mr. Fuzzy. And quite the proper travel companion, I might add. :) I liked how both of you helped each other out in the end. That was big of both of you.

But folks who do a lot of traveling tend to be more giving and helpful when they see other's in need.

Everyone in the world should have the opportunity to travel, if only to learn how to treat others in respectful and compassionate ways.

geewits said...

Like Jocelyn, I prefer the classic butler. But my favorite is the character Jeeves. I really loved Stephen Fry's version. I hate to burst your bubble but cutlery is only correct if it is to be used. One never sets out a utensil that does not have a purpose for that particular meal. But more on Fuzzy, please.

Anonymous said...

The ultimate English gentleman except for the theft bit!

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

As for the "stealing", I can hear Fuzzy reply, "Well, it does say self-service. They should not say that if they don't mean it!"

Anthony Hopkin's role is that of the subservient downstairs of the English Manor whereas John Steed is the unflappable Englishman in a world that doesn't play fair or 'cricket" as he would say.

Yes, David Niven would be another archetype. I remember he is always impeccably dressed in suit or jacket, even in the heat of a tropical jungle. It may interest you to know, that Fuzzy uses a fork and knife to cut a banana as it is uncouth to peel one.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Sid? Oooo, that is a severe indictment of the British society. But you are on to something there. Oh, there was one important piece of equipment that neither of us thought of during our trip and that was a can opener. Yes, can opener and knife is pretty much all that is needed.

What kind words. Of course, you are unaware of the arguments we had about whether to go north or south. Still we kept our friendship through it all. That counts for a lot.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

you are right about the cutlery which is why I contend that Fuzzy is like an English gentleman but even more so. It might interest you to know that he does not peel a banana but uses a fork and knife to cut it into bite sizes and to remove the skin. More Fuzzy will be coming up.

Check out my comment to Jocelyn on the "stealing" bit.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I think I adore Fuzzy, but I'm not sure that anyone could replace Sir John. I would have killed to be Diana Rigg, who played Emma, while watching that show as a very young person.

My first love was Sydney Carton, whose unrequited love for Lucy Manette was matched by mine for him.

Anthony Hopkins is a marvelous actor (and Englishman) and Bonnie Prince Charles resembles nothing so much as a flounder. I'm just saying.

MedStudentWife said...

Yes... Anthony Hopkins, John Steed and Steeven Fry's "Jeeves" are also probably what I see as the "ultimate" Englishman of a quickly vanishing breed.

I think the characters of Upstairs, Downstairs were also good.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I would have killed to be with Emma Peel. I am unfamiliar with your reference to Sydney Carton though.

next time I will examine the eccentric Englishman. Watch out for that.

tsduff said...

My first thought was David Niven - he was always so perfectly British (The Bishop's Wife). Everyone else has given a good variety too.

On a limb with Claudia said...

I love the juxtaposition of the words:




Janice Thomson said...

Oh yes, more about Fuzzy please :)

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