Thursday, 18 February 2016

Sunshine and Britishness

It really was the International Space Station and not the six o’clock to Stavanger. I looked it up. Aberdeen, 5.46pm. Too thrilling.

Today, the sun shone all day out of a sapphire blue sky. I had a mighty ride on the red mare, and, fired with triumph, came inside and wrote 3930 words of my new project. This is absurd and should not be allowed, since the quality tends to tail off with the quantity. Trollope used to write five hundred words and then go and invent the pillar box. Still, it was quite something and I felt pleased and proud.

There was something absolutely vital and I’m sure riveting about this day that I had to tell you and now I have completely forgotten it. This is a slight pity, since I was hoping to give you something really juicy today. I feel the blogs have been slightly workaday and blah lately. I wanted to hit you with the wonder, but it’s run for the border and there is nothing I can do about that.

I am working so hard that I don’t really know what is going on in the world. I turn the wireless on for brief moments and hear snatches about the Supreme Court justices and President Obama, and the European wranglings, and Boris Johnson seen coming in and out of Number Ten wearing an interesting hat. I see both sides of Europe and find it impossible to make up my mind. I love the dream of unity and the freedom of trade and movement; I hate the democratic deficit, the awful Brussels gravy train, and the bonkers fish quotas.

I did see that Emma Thompson got into trouble for saying something about poor old Blighty being cold and gloomy and filled with cake (I think that was what it was) and that she felt European, not British. I thought about that for quite a long time. I don’t feel European at all. When I was younger, I wished I did. I thought the Italians and the French were so much more glamorous and sophisticated and intellectual than the British. Now I cast yearning eyes at the Scandis with their civilised social contract. But whatever I might wish or think, I am British to the backbone. All my cultural references, societal attitudes and turns of phrase are so British that they are almost a caricature. I am Marmite and Dad’s Army and The Beano and Nancy Mitford and high tea and the 3.30 at Huntingdon and Radio Four and our own dear Queen. I go to the shop and talk to the ladies about the weather. When asked how I am, I say: ‘Not too bad.’ I have absolutely no idea how to accessorise and cannot make head nor tail of philosophy.

I know that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, but I love these windy islands with every beat of my bashed old heart. I have a deep and enduring faith in the Ordinary Decent Britons who inhabit them. I know one should really be a citizen of the world, but I have British written through me like Brighton through a stick of rock. 


  1. I love this post, and all your recent ones. It doesn't matter when nothing special is coming to mind, everyday musings are lovely. Also how amazing you saw the Space Station. I also feel British to my bones. I never used to, then I lived abroad for ten years and realised that though Britain isn't perfect it has so much to recommend it, including many of the things you mentioned. I think it was the BBC that brought me home in the end. Have a lovely evening, Rachel

  2. At the rate I'm going I'll likely never be anything other than American (I keep thinking about taking out Belgian nationality as well since I've lived here now, this month, 37 years! And we originally only came for three, maybe five at a stretch!).
    The longer I live away, the more AND less American I feel. I'm appalled (massive understatement!) at what's happening in U.S. politics. I find it hard to believe the embarrassing ignorance I read online yet...there it is. Cringeworthy as our daughter would say. I've voted in every federal election since Americans abroad (who weren't in the armed or diplomatic services) were permitted to (1980, when there were THREE candidates: Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan & John Anderson, who ran as an Independent). Never have I felt like my vote will count for less than this time around.
    I'm glad to be in Europe where there still seems to be some semblance of understanding of "democratic socialism", where comprehensive health care isn't (apparently) seen as robbing the wealthier to pay for "sick people" (as if people WANT to be ill!), where -- even though taxes are significantly higher on comparable wages, my family, friends & acquaintances all seem to be living relatively comfortable lives. I feel safer here too. I don't know anyone here who owns a gun. Four of my five siblings in the USA have at least one firearm in their homes.
    To complicate things, I preceded my move to Belgium by living a decade (to the day!) in Canada, which I loved except the winters were too darned cold & I met a man who wanted to be a foreign correspondent...which led to marriage, Belgium and our daughter.
    My cultural references are a mix -- Monty Python and Absolutely Fabulous, the Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Adele...
    Someone once told me if you live away from your native country long enough, "something" happens. You don't assimilate totally where you are yet you're no longer familiar with where you were from. "You can't go home again."

  3. Like you I am British through and through and don't feel European. We managed for thousands of years to be quite successful at being just Britain before all this EU nonsense - it's time we stood on our own two feet again.


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