Today I bought a half-price Union Jack canvas print from Wilkos. No real reason, just fancied it and having made some pennies from Ebay and UglyCakes, I thought I could splash out on £2.50. It is going to come with me for our New Flat in Regina, wherever that may be.
Usually I am not keen on buying Flag paraphenalia. It’s something about the British character – unnecessary, unprovoked displays of patriotism make most of us slightly uncomfortable. Whereas there are some things about the UK I do love, and will miss, I couldn’t really say I am ‘proud’ of this country. For example, our out of touch, idiotic, nepotistic, fraudulent and corrupt governments, cosying up to America unquestioningly whilst remaining an aloof detachment from our nearest neighbours in continental Europe, illegal immoral unjustifiable wars, the rise of the bog-eyed loons – sorry – I mean the far-right political parties, the “too cool for education” Chavs, the “binge-drinking toddler stole my wheelie bin”/ “immigration causes global warming’ says BB star Chlamydia, 23-from-Essex” style phone-hacking tabloid media, the arrogant reliance on monoglotism, erm, general xenophobia, and the persistently enormous consumption of instant coffee – (pauses for breath) – are just a few of the things I fail to have any pride in.
This clip has already spread its way around the interweb, but it just about summarises everything inherently wrong with the UK!
Funny EDL Interview – Incoherent Anger, Muslamic Infidels
But enough with this negativity! Like I said, there are things I do like about being British (not English – I still prefer to include the other three parts of the UK, and regretfully, the far-right really have hijacked the St George flag, ironic considering St George was also the patron saint of Georgia and Portugal…). I mentioned our uncomfortableness with conspicuous patriotism: I’d argue that the same is true of any public displays of emotion or celebration. Admittedly, the vast majority of the population seemed to go nuts when Princess Diana died, but as I remember the media did as much as it could to whip up some sensational reactions rather than it being truely spontaneous. Prince William and Kate’s wedding was met with a resounding nationwide “meh” – in fact, Carl was one of the many thousands of men who bought the “Thanks for the day off” unofficial souvenir t-shirt. Hosting the Olympics is at best, uninteresting, at worst, actually unwelcome especially given the economic climate. We are Not Good at celebrating, and I actually LOVE that. Cool, cynical, laconic stoicism. Believe me, it’s the way forward.
Good advice folks!
I also appreciate the apathetic secularism, not found in many places at all any more. It took the Aussie comedian, Tim Minchin, (who now lives in London) to point out that the correct way to deal with god-botherers is “mild embarrassment and patient education.”. Richard Dawkins is British. There is just no equivalent of the happy-clappy, evangelistic Christianity that pervades the US. That is not to say people aren’t religious here, some still are, but it is a very personal, private thing. There is no demand for our political leaders to be remotely religious. There are plenty more reasons to distrust David Cameron than his poor attendance at church! The few Repent and Believe! or The End Of The World Is Nigh! blokes with sandwich boards and soggy leaflets that occasionally infest our highstreets are largely ignored, ridiculed or, if any of my friends are nearby and bored, engaged in fruitless circular debate for HOURS in the rain. Seeing this happen gives me a sense of enormous wellbeing.What else will I miss? I adore the English language, all its bastardisations, its obscure, contrary spelling and grammar rules, and its constant evolution. I love the humour the language creates, the self-deprecating wit. No one does sarcasm quite like us. I appreciate the true British eccentric – for me this is encapsulated by a bloke called Satan who attends Whitby Goth Weekend. His name is Neil the rest of the time, and he wears a black t-shirt saying “I’m a Goth” on it, just in case this wasn’t entirely obvious from the rest of his attire. I can’t imagine this Satan would show up anywhere but outside Sainsbury’s in Whitby in April.
I will miss some of the food. Namely, Big Stodgy Stuff. Pies, pasties, heavy stodgy puddings, potatoes as the staple. Not very good for you at all, but not because it’s all fried, it isn’t, it’s just very heavy. Hopefully my Uglycakes will be enough to keep this tradition alive overseas! Oh and Real Ale. In proper pubs. Yus.
And I couldn’t talk about Britishness without the national stereotype: the Cup of Tea. Often run into one word, “cuppatea”. It’s not just a drink, it’s a social norm, fulfills many an emotional need, establishes routine and comfort and is something to rely on in times of stress. Working hours are negotiated around tea breaks. Andit has to be Right – strong but milky and brewed in a tea pot. I don’t even like the stuff but I appreciate its social status. Even the Queen drinks it!
So anyway, back to the Union Jack flag. Yet again, this conversation first arose in the cafe: we needed a rug for our freezing cold toilet. It was nearly the Royal Wedding, and everywhere was selling Union Jack or Kate&Willz souvenirs. In a fit of extravagance, I bought a Union Jack flag rug for the loo from Poundland. Jo’s immediate, and deliberately sarcastic reaction was “you can’t use that, it’s a bit racialist!!!” The Royal wedding was one of the few occasions that Poundland managed to sell anything with the flag on it to people outside the UKIP party I think!! Perhaps unsurprisingly, the rug in the loo got very dirty very quickly, with everyone standing on it with muddy feet. (Our loo is, in the great British tradition of bizarre Victorian hygiene methods, outside the main building across the yard). The white on the flag soon became grey and sad looking, only because Jo and I are generally upbeat people, we decided to claim it was just “vintage.”And there you have it, you can get away with public displays of patriotism IF and only if it is done in a vaguely ironic sense, and if your paraphernalia can claim to be “vintage”.