Love of England

England flag 01

Although born in England I’ve always counted my nationality as Scottish, the birthplace of my dad and where I spent my formative years. But increasingly my heart is becoming English. It’s not because I’ve lived here for over forty years, nor is it because my wife and children are English.

English national pride seems something that’s hard to get hold of. It shows itself when an England team is playing, but turns nasty in the case of defeat. Just look at news coverage of the England football team whenever they fail to win a competition.

Other than that it’s really hard to identify. It seems there’s more passion about being Cornish, a Lancastrian or hailing from Yorkshire than being English. There’s nothing  to compare to the passions aroused in Scotland, usually directed against ‘The Sassenachs’ (who were actually Lowland Scots rather than English), or the Welsh love of their language and songs. So why am I warming to England as my home?

For a start the countryside is beautiful in a peaceful and reassuring way. Of course there’s great variety… in the flat lands of The Fens hereabouts on a quiet summer evening you can see for miles, with church spires of all the villages dotted around puncturing the huge sky. Contrast that with the Lake District… the part of England that gets nearest to being mountainous, and yet its all very civilised with beautiful quaint English villages always within easy walking distance. And everything in between, from the honey colour of cottages in The Cotswolds to the quiet and expansive beaches on the Norfolk coast.

Even in London, besides the vibrancy and amazing free spectacles such as The British Museum, to wander round the squares and parks, admire the architecture and be surprised at every turn, to pop into cafes and restaurants offering just about any food you can imagine, is my idea of heaven.

Where to stop… the amazing English language, now accepted as the language of the World, wonderful literature such as the heart stopping Pride and Prejudice, the reserve of the English, the maturity of the society, the tolerance of peoples from across the World.

England has been very tolerant and welcoming of other cultures to this country, particularly when fleeing oppression, and have been welcoming asylum seekers in small numbers since the middle ages. The Huguenots were the first large migration, when more than 50,000 arrived from 1685 onwards.

On the corner of Fournier Street and Brick Lane in the East End of London stands the Jamme Masjid mosque. The building has been used for over two and a half centuries as a place of worship for the peoples of Spitalfields, yet the communities assembling within its walls have changed with successive waves of immigration to London. In 1744, the building started its life as a Huguenot church and 50 years later became a Wesleyan chapel. From 1898 the building housed the Spitalfields Great Synagogue serving the Eastern European Jewish community until it was sold to the Bengali community in 1975. It remains a symbol of movement and fluidity which is so characteristic of London's history and has witnessed individual and group histories that have shaped London and Britain, where many had sought sanctuary.

The Times editorial on the 19th of January 1858 declared that:
"every civilised people on the face of the earth must be fully aware that this country is the asylum of nations, and that it would defend the asylum to the last drop of its blood. There is no point on which we are prouder or more resolute [...] We are a nation of refugees."

Sure, there are things that need fixing. That mature society has developed a support environment that allows some to see the social security system as their main or only means of income. I’m not blaming those on benefits for this, but the politicians that frame rules which state that once you’re on benefits, for any work you do over 16.5 hours a week your effective rate of tax is 70%. That’s far higher than for a millionaire and means you’re probably working for a net gain of less than £1.50 an hour. I wouldn’t do that. That’s no incentive to work your way off benefits.


On the home front the weekly competitions with my sons got into full swing with the first threesome at pitch and putt. Bit of a disaster round for me at 85, but John just pipped David on the 18th by one stroke. I had my first win of the year at pool/darts last Sunday, and am managing to hold in there at squash, being just one behind David this month.

Had another inspection of my blinking bladder last week and passed again with flying colours. Bought a bottle of whisky for a celebratory tipple. One more year to go of treatment and inspection and I’ll then be in the clear.

Made some progress on the novel. Read a book on how to write a novel, then sketched out the chapter structure and started some research. Wish I’d started writing it last October rather than as we’re heading into Spring. Suspect progress will be slow while the weather is good, but keep reminding myself that it should take months and months.

Had the grandsons on the allotment on Thursday. Cue the usual flurry of den building, see photos and video clips below. On the next visit it took me almost as long as they’d been there to tidy up! Was hoping to have the biannual camp fire with sausages and marshmallows, but the weather was poor so it’s been postponed to next week.

Loads of seedlings coming on at present… must post a snap of the greenhouse. And the rain will bring on the cabbage, onions, broad beans, garlic, lettuce and spinach already in the ground.

Started digging over one of the borders in the back garden at home. The plants in there have got a bit tired so I’m aiming to completely replant with perennials and annuals.

Finally, Beth, Chris, Connor and Paige are off to Disneyland Paris on the Eurostar tomorrow for a few days, to include a tour around Paris. Connor is really interested in high buildings so he’s looking forward to his trip to the Eiffel Tower. Popped across last night to show them on how to use my Samsung U10 camcorder, so should be lots of interesting footage for the next posting.


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