In the first home thoughts post I talked about England a little. I was born there, I went to school there and I have lived in its north, south and middle at some point or other. Maybe I will live there again one day...maybe I won't... but like a lot of people I have a very love/hate and on/off relationship with my home country (no wonder home countries are referred to as mother or fatherlands!). In some ways I do love it (memories, music, comedy, writers, places, people...) but I wrote in that first post that there was a lot about it that I don't miss since we moved north to Scotland in 2002. I didn't give details about what I don't miss because sometimes I'm not even sure what the things are that I don't miss! (And by the way I know Scotland has its down sides too...everywhere does...but Scotland is still foreign enough to me for these things not to bother me...well, not to bother me all the time...).
Here are a some of the less-than-great-things about England that I remember:
1. Our white neighbours in Yorkshire saying to me when I got back from hospital with baby Small Girl for the first time “was the ward full of pakis...bet it was”. I know you get racists in other places but...there are lots of people in England who just make me ashamed to be human, never mind English. Ashamed probably isn't the right word...they make me depressed. I find people's harshness to and lack of care about other people just unbearable sometimes really.
2. The whole issue of national pride - in England it is a very confused area just now. Some people have too much, some people are just ashamed, some people are miserable, some people are too busy fighting off the recession and/or knife-wielding assailants to think about it. As I mentioned before I read Billy Bragg's valiant effort to take English pride back from the right wingers ('The Progressive Patriot')...but I'm not sure he really came to any conclusions. He saw hope in the fact that the English flag now has more to do with football than fascists (maybe)...but he didn't sound wholly convinced. The book is very good on his love of music (interesting sections on Simon & Garfunkel and Bob Dylan, pop pickers) and when it comes to the business of national anthems he's pretty good too:
“It's been years since our Welsh and Scottish neighbours stopped singing the British national anthem, 'God save the Queen', at sporting events. It didn't take an Act of Parliament, or the United Kingdom to crumble or the monarchy to collapse, to make the change. When the Welsh sing 'Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau' they are sending out a message, and even if the language is unfamiliar, the meaning is clear: 'Hello, we're from Wales and we're very proud of it.' England's continued attachment to the British anthem smacks of a lack of self-confidence, a worry that, without it, we might somehow be a lesser people. The message sent out every time we sing 'God save the Queen' is one of ambiguity: 'Hello, we're English, but we're not really sure what that means.'”
Bragg has recorded what is often referred to as England's unofficial national anthem (Blake's 'Jerusalem') and I could give you the YouTube clip but...I had to sing it once in a school play and I can't face listening to the song ever since! I also considered the Sex Pistols 'God save the queen' but...you know where it is if you want to go and find it. It's not really my thing and all the Pistols stuff I could see on the YouTube was too ropey for words. I know, I know...that was the point...still not something I want to have on here particularly (though I did really enjoy John Lydon's book 'Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs', published in 1994...read that a while back).
3. Some people really do seem to actively want more shopping malls and airport runways and motorways in England but it's a small country and there's only so much space left to build on. I'm sure there are still quiet places (that Weaver of Grass farm looks lovely!) but it just felt like it was getting a bit crazy towards the end of our last residence there.
4. Having grown up in the north of England I always found a particular kind of annoying English southerner unbearable. Comedian Harry Enfield does a good one:
Except of course the dim ones can be fairly harmless...it's the clever ones you have to watch out for.
And here's a poem about England and one of my favourite English poets - Philip Larkin.
Larkin is home
Are you England in a nutshell
You behind the thick glasses?
All those grey cloud reflections
Shielding ships lost at sea
With the muttering and the glooming
And the hating all the upset
All the turning up the stereo
And the griping over tea
And yet somehow you wrote it
Possibly the best love line
Ever to be dragged
From this language so free
But it's raining and it's pouring
Maybe England is just drowning
Maybe Larkin's dry in heaven
Maybe toads fly swimmingly
2 hours ago