Russians have several myths about Britain that they love to go on about, and all of them are complete nonsense. The "foggy Albion" cliche that always gets wheeled out - it rains a lot in England, yes, but I've never noticed it being any more foggy than Moscow.
And then there's the idea, presumably gleaned from reading too much nineteenth century literature (or watching too many Hollywood films), that England is full of stuttering, stiff-upper-lipped Hugh Grants, falling over themselves to follow intricate codes of behavior but nevertheless proving to be socially awkward. A nation of ultra-polite aristocrats who take tea at five p.m. and go fox hunting on the weekends.
These people do still exist - you can find their inbred features and guffawing voices in a few pubs in Oxford or country estates sprinkled across the south of the country. But this is the twenty-first century, people, and the time of the aristocrat is over. This class of old-moneyed posh ruddy-faced right-wing nut jobs makes up all of 0.1% of Britain's population.
Then, another 10% is made up of an educated, smug middle class- - people like me. We're not like the Russians - instead of brashly shouting to all and sundry about how great our country is, we take any opportunity to deprecate it. But deep down, we are satisfied in the knowledge that we wouldn't want to have been born anywhere else. We have the best sense of humor, the best sense of irony, the best writers, the best of everything the world has to offer. As Cecil Rhodes put it so long ago - "Remember that you are an Englishman, and have consequently won first prize in the lottery of life." We remember this all too well, we just keep it a bit quieter these days. And although we're happy to be British, we're also happy that we got out of Britain, for reasons to be explained below.
Because although this is the kind of Brit that most people from other countries will bump into most of the time - an educated, traveling, smug creature with a dry smile and a sense of superiority sparkling in its eyes - we're far from the majority back home.
Britain is the land of the Chav. It's Chavland, Chavistan, Chavskaya Federatsiya, the United Chavdom. A land of cultureless, junkfood-eating, malnourished, pasty white trash scum that can barely speak, let alone read, and forms the basis of one of the most odious cultures in the world - modern Britain. The chav is the king of the Binge Britain jungle.
What, exactly, is a chav? Difficult question. The word itself is relatively new, appearing three or four years ago. Some claim it stands of "Council House Average", others that it was thought up by posh girls at Cheltenham Ladies College to talk about the locals - "Cheltenham Average". But, suddenly, in 2004, I got off the Aeroflot flight from Moscow after a six-month break from the UK, and Britain had gone chav crazy.
Everyone was complaining about chavs, and the word had even made into the mainstream media as a form of acceptable class snobbery. People wearing "street" clothes were referred to as "chavtastic". Mike Carroll, a malnourished retarded-looking thug who won ?9 million on the lottery and then spent it all in a month before ending up in prison, was dubbed the "King of the Chavs" by the press. The Sun called him the "Lotto Lout", explaining how he set his pit bull terrier on his neighbors and used his newfound fame to have "sordid sex" with multiple women.
Because even money can't buy someone a one-way ticket out of chavdom. There's something Russians don't understand - class and money are linked, but not always. Take David Beckham. He's made millions, he's become a male model, he tries to be a new man and wear sarongs. But he belies his chav background by calling his sons Romeo, Brooklyn and Cruz - ridiculous names which simply scream out "moneyed chav trying to be classy and failing".