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.