English people always feel a need to apologise for having pride in their country. I don’t know why that is, because I don’t.
England and, in particular, London, is my homeland. I have an English father who lives in Liverpool and a Scottish mother living in Worcestershire, a Welsh step-mother who lives in Leicestershire and an Irish grandmother buried in Berkshire – so I’m a bit of a mongrel and I could choose any soil to live upon. Over the years, I have lived in many places – in England, Wales and in Scotland and from this experience I think I have learned something.
I feel a great sense of awareness in England’s ability to accept the diversity of people – and their peculiar customs – that live within its borders. So, it is upon England’s pleasant shores that my sense of pride is firmly lodged.
But what is England?
Is it fish and chips on a Friday and Sunday roasts?
Is it the mud at Glastonbury or the rain at Wimbledon?
Is it the classical works of Elgar, the brash beat of the Sex Pistols or the memorable melodies of the Beatles?
When people think of our ‘historic’ Englishness they think of gentleness, of politeness of courteousness. They think of bowler-hatted gentlemen tipping their brims to genteel shy ladies hiding their blushing smile behind embroidered hankies. Even I remember a time when Englishmen shook hands and opened doors. There was a certain reserve about the English person that would never have permitted us to give bone crushing hugs and kisses on cheeks – particulalry to strangers.
I still hold some of that reserve today.
That stiff upper lip was a trademark symbol of a native of England. Never would you hear an Englishman or woman airing their linen in public.
As for rights? What rights did we expect to have other than getting our own hands dirty with hard work? Dogged perserverance and gritty determination was part of our spirit not so long ago.
Today, I observe oddities and obvious contrasts about England that are rare elsewhere:
- The picture of a gentle gentlemen sitting comfortably on a train, alongside a hooligan-looking skin-head (he’s not really a hooligan, he’s just making a statement);
- quick-witted comedians working with wise scholarly folk;
- common-sense grafting men chatting easily with the elite – both having a lack of self-importance about them.
People mourn the fact that we used to be a resolute nation: they say we were firm and took everything on the chin with good spirit; culture and courage went hand-in-hand.
I take heart in what I see when I look at my fellow countrymen today, it is not too dissimilar from times of old.
I maintain our spirit and attitude is not dead. Others may mock my view, but I see the contradictions and I love them.
The natives of the good soil that I walk upon have a great sense of pride in that they still hold that sentimentality in their hearts for the England of old, mixed in with an unselfconscious matter-of-factness in being able to accept the world’s insults (take it on the chin). We may still hold a grudging sketicism about others, but we still ‘get on with it’.
Our ‘toilet’ humour and witty one-liners in the face of adversity are known the world over.
Our public transport, national health and military might, although bemoaned about constantly, are still a source of national pride.
To me, it doesn’t matter that my homeland continually suffers assaults on its culture, its sports or its customs and laws. Underneath, because (or inspite) of the restrictions pausing (yes, pausing) our freedom, the people of England seem to have an underlying strength and sense of identity that I doubt will ever die. Whatever happens.
I have an indifferent confidence about my brothers and sisters that our proud hearts knows will never succumb to outside influences. We know that outside influences merely get sucked into our system and ultimately boil down to our way of being.
This is achieved without bloodshed.
But with a quiet acceptance.
But what of the land? The rolling North Downs; the dawn mists over Oxford’s spires; the eerie history of Stone Henge; London’s majestic skyline where the world meets and greets … Muddy fields, green grass, faerie woodlands, picturesque pastures … private parks, alluring twisting alleys and cobbled courtyards. I could go on and on about this magical palace of peacefulness.
There is so much to hate about it too … developers with their new blood red brick box houses opposing grey faceless tower blocks of the concrete jungles. Truly ancient architecture mixed-in with the ultra-modern, sometimes sit at odds with one another. But that true British spirit still accepts.
For all the injustices labelled against my fellow countrymen and the borders that I choose to live within, I believe we remain tolerant in the face of the arrogance of others and even, dare I say, smile at them as a mother would her child. You must understand, with all the outside influences eroding our very way of life, it is only natural and inevitable that our children are going to throw a hissy-fit on the odd occasion.
I can’t deny my pride of England and her people.
No matter how hard anyone attempts to crush our spirit, no one ever manages to take from us a sense of British-ness.
If you are a visitor and choose to live in the land that offers you such great freedoms and opportunities, then do as I and my English fellows do – learn the quality of acceptance. I promise you won’t go far wrong.