This tiny, almost insignificant chunk of chalk and soil floating 20 or so miles from the mainland of the world’s second smallest continent, has, over the years, invaded 90 per cent of the world’s present nation states! It’s a country with a Napoleon complex, a country that has helped destroy important cultures and biodiverse landscapes for centuries. England put in place damaging laws that its ex-colonies continue to enforce, and it is virtually impossible to imagine what the world would look like without it.
I was going to start the blog by listing the countries that the English have invaded, but that would take up nearly all of the 400 word count so instead here are the lucky few who have never been visited by our wrath: Andorra, Belarus, Bolivia, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, Guatemala, Ivory Coast, Kyrgyzstan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mali, Marshall Islands, Monaco, Mongolia, Paraguay, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sweden, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Vatican City.
Many of these are so small that it makes me wonder why we didn’t choose to pick on someone our own size (and no this is not a threat to Luxembourg, though I am sure we could teach them a thing or two.)
So that is why I decided it was important to start by saying sorry, and to accept that the country in which I was born has been problematic since 197 AD. What’s worse is that we show no signs of stopping, indeed we keep collectively voting in people determined to make things worse… But no modern day apology comes without caveats and excuses and this week’s book A short history of England, gives me the perfect get-out clause, as by chapter two it becomes remarkably clear that we are not even English ourselves! When the Saxons, the Germans and the Vikings invaded, the original English fled to Britanny, France, Wales and Scotland. This seems to mean that the Celts are actually English and the modern-English are actually a melange of invaders and visitors. No-one wonder I feel so at home in multicultural Birmingham!
One of the most offensive things people say to me about my homeland is that our food is bland, grey, thoughtless, nutrition-free and over-priced, so I thought I would set the record straight and eat nothing but local traditional delicacies for a week. I started with prawn cocktail crisp sandwiches, moved up to chip butties, ordered in vegan fish and chips, made vegan scones, ate English muffins (or muffins as we call them) and crumpets, cooked beans on toast and, most happily, went to a fine dining vegan restaurant called Land, which I recommend to anyone lucky enough to be able to afford £48 per head. I think you’ll agree this cornucopia of flavours challenges the generally understood assumption that the English have no taste!
I know I really should have watched a Mike Leigh film or something by Ken Loach, as they are among the best at representing Englishness as many of us experience it, but quite frankly I didn’t think I could inflict another depressing tale of post Thatcherite poverty on my beloved, so instead I proposed a classic period drama by Merchant Ivory productions. Howard’s End is a classic of its kind, showing the harm rather than the joy of the class system which, you will be pleased to know is still thriving, as evidenced by our public-school boy government and peoples’ willingness to vote for Jacob Rees-Mogg.
So, how do we cope with all this pent up misery and century old guilt? Booze. We are a boozy people who drink to celebrate, commiserate or pass the time. It was therefore quite the alcoholic week, with a particular focus on goblets of gin and tonic and pints of foamy warm ale.
We also do music, so much music in fact that I found it too overwhelming to make a playlist. I couldn’t decide whether to go for people who sing with British accents, people who sing about hating England, one song for every year I’ve been alive, or just point you to the Beatles? Given how this blog began, I went for songs about hating England, but will hopefully be able to find time to make the others soon! So that’s it, bye bye blighty and hello Equatorial Guinea!