“Calling someone ‘fella’ or ‘pal’ and then unexpectedly having to enter into full conversation, which reveals you’re not actually Cockney at all.”
There’s an epidemic sweeping the nation. Symptoms include:
*Acute embarrassment at the mere notion of making a fuss;
*Extreme awkwardness when faced with any social greeting beyond a brisk handshake;
*An unhealthy preoccupation with meteorology.
Doctors have also reported several cases of unnecessary apologising, an obsessive interest in correct queuing etiquette and dramatic sighing in the presence of loud teenagers on public transport. If you have experienced any of these symptoms, you may be suffering from VERY BRITISH PROBLEMS. VERY BRITISH PROBLEMS are highly contagious. There is no known cure.
Rob Temple’s hilarious new book reveals all the ways in which we are a nation of socially awkward but well-meaning oddballs, struggling to make it through every day without apologising to an inanimate object. Take comfort in misfortunes of others. You are not alone.
The humour in this book is rare but brilliant. I say rare for a particular reason, which I’ll come to later, but what I mean is that the ‘statements’ or ‘observations’ in this book are so funny because they are so accurate. They are that most crucial of things: relatable.
I originally bought this book for my mum after deciding to buy her More Very British Problems. I say ‘decided’ but what I mean is, I took her to the book in the shop and asked her, quite politely, if she would like me to buy this for her. Clearly, I suffer from VBP.
I figured that since I’d got her the second book in the series, then it was only right to get her the first, but this one came as a surprise.
The reason behind wanting to buy her this genre of book (she’s not a big reader, apart from non-fiction/travel books on the subject of London) was due to a book we had both enjoyed years ago when my mum was in hospital. This is where that rare kind of humour plays a wonderful part.
Long story short, she had breast cancer. She had to go in for her mastectomy and I gave her a book to take with her. This book was Why the World is Wonky, a children’s book by Smarties, and is HILARIOUS. It’s exactly the same kind of humour as found with Rob Temple here.
This book cheered her up no end, it gave her something to smile and laugh about while she was very ill and recovering.
So buying her VBP was me channeling that sentiment.
But I couldn’t resist reading it myself. I suffer from anxiety, and read this book in almost a whole sitting after crying and being a mess. I started reading and ended up crying with laughter and by the time I’d done I stank because of how much sweating I’d done. It made me feel worlds better and was exactly what I needed at that point.
Anyone who knows me knows that I hardly ever react physically to a book, whether it be shedding tears at sad points, or laughing at moments the author intended to be funny. This book gets a reaction from me, which is quite brilliant.
I laughed at most of the entries, or at least thought most of them were funny and accurate. Some of them I couldn’t relate to, because come on, we’re not all clones of each other. For example, I don’t drink alcohol or socialise in restaurants very much. And I don’t drive or have a significant other. BUT although I couldn’t relate to some things, I could appreciate them for their humour.
The book doesn’t just comprise snippets from the original Twitter account, it has full, proper chapters of awkwardness. These are conveniently italicized in the contents section, for easy navigation and minimal confusion. These sections include ‘The Very British Test’ just to establish whether or not you are as British as you purport to be. There’s even a dedicated chapter on the weather, which is arguably one of life’s most important subjects, and very dear to my mother’s heart.
To quote her: “They give it out you know”, “I think it’s passing over”, “The ice is treacherous, I nearly went all my length.”, “Now I’ve brought the washing in the sun has come out!” At which point, putting the washing back out brings on a second round of rain. Like I said, an important subject.
I read this book in a conventional way. Front to back, cover to cover. My mum dips in and out. She takes it with her sometimes, and suddenly it’ll appear out of nowhere and we’ll be laughing within 5 seconds of opening the book.
When I went to borrow this book from her to have it as reference for this review, she told me that she’d read one entry on Sunday that made her laugh: “But I can’t remember it now,” she said. Still, remembering it wasn’t important, it was the fact that she had a laugh that matters. This is the ideal book for someone like her, and I’m sure there are plenty of other mothers out there who deserve the cheer that comes with Very British Problems.
Plus, the illustrations by Andrew Wightman are spot on.
To conclude, this book is good for many things: It’s a brilliant gift (especially for parents), it’s good for cheering someone up who is ill or upset (I recommend having it with hot chocolate), and it’s good to dip in and out of if you just want a quick dose of laughter (it is the best medicine after all).
Oh, and if you don’t know what Very British Problems is, then follow the official Twitter account to get a taste for it: @SoVeryBritish
Link to the book on Goodreads: Very British Problems