Wednesday, 26 May 2010

One more thing

Posted by Tania Kindersley.


Like a pesky bit of apple core between the teeth, that State Department fellow keeps on coming back to bug me. When I said it was not entirely untrue that there is nothing special about Britain, I meant it in the widest sense: there is not necessarily anything more or less special about any country compared with another. Each place is special and not special in its own special way. Am I lost in semantics yet?

I instinctively flinch from the we're the greatest tendency; you can take your damn testosterone and go home. I really don't think it is a competition. If there is a greatest nation in the world it is probably Denmark, if their bus drivers are anything to go by.

But I find myself muttering, like Mutley in The Whacky Racers. (Am having sudden acid flashback to Penelope Pitstop putting on her lipstick.) I hear myself saying, at odd moments: Marmite. Or: Irony. (I know that other nations do irony, but I say that it is a British invention.) And: Frank Cooper's Oxford.

Obviously I am not quite as temperate and sanguine as I thought. So here, out of sheer bloody-mindedness, another very British invention, is a little list of the things that this poor, clapped-out old country gave the world:

Fish and chips. Keats. The telephone. Matches. The Grand National. The Rolling Stones. Vanbrugh. Winston Churchill. Oxford and Cambridge. The pub. The internet. (Oh, yes, the INTERNET. Which the miraculous Tim Berners-Lee not only invented, but gave away for free.). Twiggy. The Lake District. Evelyn Waugh. The Scottish Enlightenment. Sir Isaac Newton. The BBC. Stilton. The poems of Milton. The cartoons of Hogarth. The bowler hat. Virginia Woolf. The mini skirt. The Mini Cooper. Pimms. Byron. Laurence Olivier. The Angry Young Men. Gilbert and Sullivan. The police. Oh, and The Police. Football. The television. George Orwell. Scotch whisky. The equals sign. (= was invented by a Welshman. Who knew?) Cricket. Auden. The crossword. Savile Row. The magnifying glass. Logarithms. Red London buses. Stubbs. The English language. Cecil Beaton. Both Francis Bacons. Rosalind Franklin. Self-deprecation as a way of life. Jane Austen. Mary Queen of Scots. James Bond. The Aston Martin. Melton Mowbray pork pies. Nancy Mitford. Afternoon tea. Tweed. The kilt. Punk. Spotted dick, for which we apologise.


There. Better now. The old Joanna Bull in me is sated.

Special, schmecial.


  1. Being half Danish I can empathise with your comment about Denmark ;-). But I read the list of British 'specialness' and agree wholeheartedly! Lou x

  2. I heartily agree with you! I love all the special things about Britain. I've never been there, but want to visit; my ancestors were born there.

  3. Magna Carta, the Putney Debates, the Self-Denying Ordinance; Byrd, Dowland, Purcell, Vaughan Williams, Finzi, Britten; Byron (huge euro-hero!); Somerset; Wells Cathedral; Austen, G Eliot, Orwell, A Huxley; Wren; Hawksmoor; Wilberforce, Cobbett (latter hated former, as you probably know!); Darwin; Rutherford; Sussex Pond Pudding (sorry ...).
    I think Britain should heave a huge sigh of relief at being consigned to the margins! The better to lick wounds & reconstruct realistically.
    But the point is, surely, that we Brits should all have at least some common points of cultural reference - and that appears to have disappeared under a welter of industrially-produced bread, tawdry circuses and misguided multi-culturalism. Oh dear, am turning into ranty old Disgusted of X! But your point is such a good one ...

  4. way to avoid country-centrism (!!) and yet fairly state is positive qualities. : )

  5. Mary Wollstonecraft. Mary Shelly. Elizabeth Fry. Anesthetics. Penicillin. James Lister. Golf. Tarmacadam. Raincoats. Pneumatic tyres. Sherlock Holmes. Thermos flasks. John Muir. Cats Eyes. Dr Who. John Gielgud. Jet engines. The Periodic Table. Elastic bands. Eric Liddell. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson. Charles Dickens. So much to hold dear. And specially for that State Department official, The US Navy.

  6. Lou - so exciting about yr Danish blood. Explains the loveliness of yr blog.

    Kay - Come and visit! The Prime Minister keeps saying we are open for business now.

    Minnie - genius list. How could I have left off Hawksmoor? Those London churches. Good point about the margins. I keep thinking this punching above our weight obsession was actually self-defeating, and very expensive.

    Alaskanott - very kind, thank you.

    Mona - Yes, YES, the Marys. And the thermos flask is madly thrilling. I had no idea. I adore a good thermos.

  7. Love it ! Mona mentioned Dickens for me, thanks. Also the Sandwich. Vanessa Redgrave.Nick Park.

    Bravo. Shall I email my Union Jack elephant ! x

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Hmmm good list: I would also add Elizabeth David, Simon Hopkinson, Dolly Wilde, Stilton, tweed (without irony but with acknowledgment of no-one outside 1942 being able to get away with it), sarcasm, Alec Guinness reading The Wasteland, John Humphrys, sausages - proper ones slightly peppery, Nigel Slater, British beaches (admittedly at time of writing not having a great rep, but still, the variation is all), Aspalls' cider with blackberry liqueur, Gerald Durrell, allotments, the Great British Stiff Upper Lip (in our new age of austerity I expect that will be a crowning characteristic along with Make Do and Mend), pies. (I must stop now as I have Serious Reading to finish before an event tonight and must buckle down).

  10. Jo - E David and N Slater excellent additions. Also, so agree about stiff upper lip.

  11. I'm delighted to be British and love almost everything on your list... a couple not so much maybe... There are so many things one forgets are British. Excellent additions by Minnie, Mona, Belgravia wife and Jo. My additions off the top of my head would be... Stephen Fry, David Bowie, Judi Dench, Brunel, Darwin, Newton, John Lennon, Emmeline Pankhurst, Maggie Smith, David Niven, Cary Grant, Anthony Hopkins, Noel Coward, William Blake, roast beef and yorkshire pudding, David Bailey, Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, Stephen Jones, the Pre-Raphaelites, not forgetting Dickie and David Attenborough and of course Oscar Wilde, hope I haven't doubled up xx

  12. Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Stephenson's Rocket. Spitfires. Lotuses. (Can you tell there is an engineer in this house?)

  13. Christina & Betty - Maggie Smith and Spitfires! Two more genius suggestions. I am LOVING this extended list.

    And Belgravia Wife - meant to say, but neglected to: the SANDWICH. Of COURSE. The only way not to interrupt your card game in order to eat; that clever old earl.


Your comments give me great delight, so please do leave one.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin