So the Jubilee weekend is upon us. Hurrah. I am a Republican, but I am also a Brit, and thus my love of a good piss-up and a couple of extra days off work cancels out any moral qualms about celebrating one of the richest women in the world’s entitlement to tell everyone else what to do, because she says so and she’s the Queen. You can’t fight nature.
The other day, I took my kids to a park in Chiswick, and a middle-aged couple out sunbathing were kind enough to help me push my buggy up a really steep slope. We got to chatting, and they seemed really nice, discussing our respective children and their star signs – until the guy suddenly said ‘have you noticed how few people speak English in London any more? All the Brits have left, haven’t they?’ My heart sank. Things were going so well, then out of nowhere, boom, we’re steering towards the murky waters of an anti-immigration rant. I could see it boiling up inside him, and I really didn’t want to hear it, so instead of saying ‘actually no, I haven’t noticed that at all, the vast majority of people in London speak English,’ I just said ‘oh is that the time, nice meeting you,’ and left. I know; I’m a wimp.
I actually love this country. That’s a really unfashionable thing to admit in lefty circles – people shy away from you like you’ve just told them you’re a Daily Mail reader and would the last English-speaking person in Britain turn off the lights. But I’m sorry, random park dude, whatever the Daily Mail may say, loving your country is not synonymous with casual racism and xenophobia. I grew up in rural Devon, and there weren’t many black or Asian faces there in the 80s/early 90s, and all I wanted was to get away from what felt like a smalltown backwater to the exciting, thriving, cultural melting pot that is London.
15 years on, I still think it’s the coolest city on the planet. We don’t give ourselves enough credit for, well, anything – it’s one of our national characteristics to put ourselves down – but London’s got style. Laidback, eclectic style that dressed-to-the-nines New Yorkers and couture-clad Parisians envy but can’t emulate. It’s not just its denizens that can throw anything together and still look good – so can London itself. The jumble of old and new – the Victorian industrialism of the Tate Modern rubbing shoulders with the Tudor (OK, mock-Tudor) Globe, overlooking the soaring, glittering edifices that are the Gherkin and the Shard – no other city can or does pull that off.
Having said that, of course, despite vowing that if I ever had kids, I’d bring them up in a multicultural society, I’m dying to move back to the countryside. The countryside is what I love most about the UK. Every time I come back from holidays, no matter how much I’ve enjoyed myself and fantasised about owning a hacienda in Spain or rundown farm in Normandy, I feel a possessive pang as we fly over Britain’s higgledy-piggledy green fields. The craggy Peaks, the bleak expanse of Dartmoor, the long white beaches of North Devon, the lush orchards of Kent – I’d happily live in any of those places. Anywhere I could have a decent plot to grow vegetables and keep some livestock. And a horse. I really, really want a horse. Sigh.
Anyway, there was a really cool piece in the Evening Standard yesterday about the 50 great things about Britain (actually, it was a Carling promotion, which is weird because I always thought they were a German company. Hey-ho). It was excellent, but I’ve thrown out the newspaper now, so here are 10 things I love about Britain, which may or may not have been nicked from the Standard. Read on, then bugger off and have a fabulous Jubilee weekend. We’re off camping in Wales, so see you on the other side!
- Our unofficial national dish, curry. Nobody in the world does it as well as we do (at least, not to my Anglicised curry tastebuds), even countries where it is their actual national dish. I favour a lamb rogan josh myself.
- Tea. It’s not actually British either, but it’s our answer to every problem. And it works.
- The BBC. Civilisation will end when it does.
- Fish and chips on the beach/pier. Even when it’s drizzling a bit.
- Our obsession with the weather. Not surprising, as it’s mental here.
- Sunday roasts. My reason for getting up at all on Sundays. Lamb, beef, chicken, pork with all the trimmings – I don’t have a favourite, they’re all amazing, but my Mum’s roast chicken has a special place in my heart.
- Our love of boozing and moaning. Often both at the same time – and this may occasionally lead to fighting, but we’ll gloss over that.
- English country gardens. We’re a nation obsessed with gardening – nobody else in the whole world can match us for it. The French think we’re weird, but they grow vegetables in their front gardens. *mind boggles*
- Our adoration of animals which almost, and in some cases actually does rival our love of our kids. The case of a mildly abused cat reported in the newspapers can nearly set off World War III.
- Our music. Loads of the best bands ever are British. The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Who, The Sex Pistols, The Stone Roses and of course, One Direction. OK, not them. *
*If you don’t see Oasis mentioned, that’ll be ‘cos I’ve always thought they were derivative crap that were mainly just egos and anoraks.
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