Patriot act

st-georges-day-flag3

England, half-English
An illuminating tale. I shall refrain from giving any details; needless to say, a tradesman was in our house doing some work this morning – and this is not a moan about tradesmen. The work he did for us was excellent: neat, professional and honest; he turned up on the day he said he would, at the time he specified, and the price he charged us was the price he’d quoted, give or take the cost of materials. I’d like to say I’d recommend him and use his services again myself. But there is a problem.

A chatty fellow, he arrived at 8.30, and as he brought his equipment in from the van, I made him a cup of tea (strong, white, no sugar). He then stood at the kitchen doorway for a natter before starting work. In the end, he nattered for the best part of an hour. Now, this is quite a long time to have to engage in conversation with a man you’ve just met, when you’re kind of hoping he’ll start the work. (As I say, once he did start the work, he was everything you could hope for, and he finished it well ahead of time, and he didn’t put on a tinny transistor radio either, so in the event, this wasted hour had no great repercussions.) However, he seemed a nice chap, and if the bloke fancies a chat, I’m not rude enough to deny him the chance. He told us he was in the process of selling his house – he and his wife wanted to move to France. This is interesting. On the face of it, such a move suggests character and wordliness. (Friends of ours did the same thing two years ago, and I admire them for it.) However, the man’s reasons for moving seemed to be based on the number of speed cameras in Britain.

This wasn’t literally the only reason he was moving (although he and his wife only saw one when they went to France). He seemed to have a broader problem with this country. Problems with the government, and with regulation, and with the media, and with the amount of traffic lights. At one stage – I think we’d been moaning about Tony Blair, which gave him his way in – he said he was “conservative through and through”, and reminded us that he was a “small businessman” to underline why. (This was his first leap to a conclusion that I wouldn’t leap to. After all, I am a small businessman as well. It is possible to be self-employed and not get down on your knees and thank Mrs Thatcher for the opportunity. You can be in the market and not worship the market.) He also told us that he had come back from bankruptcy. I admired him for this, although by this time the prospect of learning more about his rise and fall and rise was less enticing than him starting work.

Anyway, to cut a long story short (an advantage you have that we didn’t), the man turned out to have very strong views on England. He used the following dread words:

I’m not a racist, but …

He was not a racist, because, guess what, he had two Asian friends and some “coloured” ones. He also liked Indian food and admitted, magnanimously, that Polish builders are very good at what they do, even though they’re over here taking our jobs. My gut instinct is that anyone who feels the need to use the prefix “I’m not be a racist,” is a racist. (I don’t believe I have ever said to anyone, “I’m not a racist.” You don’t need to if you’re not one, do you?) The man basically believed that England the way it is now is not the way it should be. He started to talk about the UK Independence Party, at which point my heart sank, as I thought he was going to give us a leaflet. Instead, he went to his van and brought in a poem that his mate had given him. He handed it to me to read. I kept it.

I find it fascinating that a man in our house to do a job of work might give us this poem to read first, so I will reproduce it in full for the record (the CAPITALS are the author’s, as is the punctuation, but I have corrected the spellings, except one, which is significant):

Just Don’t Say You’re English
Goodbye my England, so long my dear friend,
Your days are numbered, being brought to an end.
To be Scottish, Welsh or Irish is fine.
But don’t say you’re ENGLISH, that’s way out of line.

The French and the Germans may call themselves such,
As may Norwegians, the Swedes and the Dutch,
You can say you are Russian, Polish or Dane, BUT,
Don’t say you’re ENGLISH ever again.

At Broadcasting House that word is taboo,
In Brussels they’ve stopped it, in Parliament too.
Even schools are affected, staff do as they’re told,
They must not teach children about the ENGLAND of old.

Writers like Shakespear [sic], Milton and Shaw, the kids do not learn
About them any more.
About Agincourt, Hastings, Arnhem and Mons, when ENGLAND
Lost thousands of her brave sons.

We are NOT Europeans, how CAN we be? ENGLAND
Is miles away over the sea.
We’re ENGLISH from ENGLAND so let’s be proud
Stand up and be counted, shout it out loud! Let’s tell our
Government and Brussels too, we’re proud of our heritage
And the red, white and blue.
Fly the flag of ST GEORGE or the UNION JACK,
Let the whole world know WE WANT ENGLAND BACK.

Deep breath.

OK, let’s go through this verse by verse. (If you look up this quite rubbish, anonymously-written poem on the internet, you’ll end up on various forums, and not necessarily far-right ones – I found one for the over-50s and another for bikers.) Its thrust is clear: that England is being taken away from the English. That to be English is somehow a crime. Well, first of all, I’m English. I would instincitively tell someone in, say, France, that I was Anglais. I’m also British, by geographical definition, and European, but I don’t really need a map to define me, and I’m certainly not proud to have been born somewhere and not somewhere else. I speak English. English is the most commonly-spoken language around the world – about a third of the world’s population speak it.Unlike, say, the Welsh language (“To be Welsh is fine”), it’s anything but under attack. It is flourishing. It is dominant. England, on those terms, still rules the waves. On any other terms, however, it doesn’t any more, no matter how nice we are to America. We’re just a little country with a good economy and some US air bases. I have no great pride in the Empire. As far as I can see, when we ruled the waves, we used them to sail to other countries, plant our flag, ship the minerals home and fuck the place up. Now I sound like I’m ranting, but this poem has gripped me with its storming SELF-CONFIDENCE.

The right, as embodied by the tradesman in our kitchen, are so confident. (I would never walk into someone’s house and give them a poem about my political beliefs. Couldn’t he see the Guardian on the kitchen table?) Confident, and yet so defensive and wounded and self-pitying at the same time. This poem is one long whine, and most of its facts are baseless. True, my passport says European Union at the top, followed by United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. That’s factually correct. It says I am a British Citizen, but it also specifies my place of birth, Northampton, which is far more specific than just England. Where is it “out of line” to say you’re ENGLISH? This is simple paranoia. “Don’t say you’re ENGLISH ever again”? Calm down. The word “ENGLISH” is not taboo at Broadcasting House, I can vouch for that. We’ve just had a World Cup in which England were the only competing team from these islands. The media was saturated with the word ENGLAND, and the ENGLISH fans were never off the news – for keeping out of trouble as much as for getting in it, I might add. It was a PR victory for the ENGLISH. The flag flew, annoyingly, from every white van. You couldn’t get away from the red cross of St George. To not be ENGLISH in this country for those weeks must have been highly irksome. The English were hardly cowed and pathetic.

Now, the devolution of Wales and Scotland and its effect on Parliament, where Welsh and Scottish MPs still vote on issues affecting England, is one worthy of debate. But the word ENGLAND is not taboo. And the ENGLAND “of old” is taught in schools. That’ll be the ENGLAND that oppressed the Welsh, the Scottish and the Irish. We learnt about that. How about the ENGLAND that went to war with France just to make some money by holding their noblemen to ransom? That’ll cover Agincourt, where, apparently, “thousands” of our “brave sons” died. I’m not doubting the bravery of the outnumbered English soldiers in that clearing, but it’s not as if France started the war. Henry V invaded to increase his approval ratings at home. It’s an old trick.

As for Hastings. Yes, the French invaded us on this occasion, but it was over a disputed claim to the throne. Harold claimed it, William, who was Edward the Confessor’s cousin after all, opposed his claim. All I’m saying is, there’s some dispute. It’s not cut and dried.

Arnhem – a battle fought in the Second World War, which is never off the current curriculum in schools, wounded ENGLISHMEN – was a British defeat. Not an English defeat. In fact, it was a British-Polish defeat. The Germans held British and Polish forces on the Arnhem bridge (the Bridge Too Far, in fact), and we withdrew, a great many of our men never actually making it to the bridge in the first place because they were parachuted in to the wrong spot. Hardly a glorious victory for our boys. They fought valiantly obviously, but here again, I’m uncomfortable using the theatre of war to glorify the country I was born in. By the way, the Canadians eventually secured Arnhem. And the British army included Welsh, Scots and Irish, not to mention soldiers for the Commonwealth. Why pick out the ENGLISH who died for special treatment. Were they braver thant the Scots or the Poles? (Ha! The Poles were over here stealing our work even then!)

As for Mons – which doesn’t rhyme with “sons”, I hate to break that to the Unknown Poet – it’s in Belgium and was the setting for the first battle of the First World War. Another British defeat, I’m afraid. The Canadians took it eventually. Are these four battles listed to make us feel sorry for our boys? If so, fair enough. British soldiers (not just English) have died all over the world for their country. They are remembered every year on Remembrance Sunday, a massive public event, which the media always covers.

Shakespear [sic], Milton and Shaw are apparently not taught in our schools. First, it’s Shakespeare. Second, he is rammed down the throat of every schoolchild that’s ever passed through any school in this country, and will be forever more. Milton, I never learnt at school. But we did Dickens (English), Eliot (American-born but based in England after the First World War) and Chaucer (English), not to mention Arnold (English) and Tennyson (English). Too many English authors if you ask me. It’s biased the other way. And, you’ll be ahead of me here, but George Bernard Shaw was Irish.

By all means, be proud to be ENGLISH if you must. No need to “shout it out loud” though, that’s just boorish and stupid. Imagine me shouting, “I’m from Northampton!” out loud. Or, “I’m a man!” Equally silly. And if you’re so hung up on being English, why are you so keen to fly the “red, white and blue”? That’s the flag of the United Kingdom, something the English nationalist must surely be against with its woolly acceptance of other nations in graphic form? It’s got the Scottish and Irish flags in it! It’s about being united, not divided – it’s about the bigger picture, not the smaller one. I suppose the author of the poem and the man who came to our house must yearn, painfully yearn, for a time when the Union flag was flown by the ships of the British Empire (hence the “Jack” part, which relates to a ship’s ensign), off to lord it over Johnny Foreigner with his spices and his gold. If you really care about this country, get worked up about the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables we import when we could easily grow our own.

Oh, and if the man in our kitchen, who kindly showed us the poem, loves England so much, why’s he planning to move to France? (God help France.)

Advertisements

57 thoughts on “Patriot act

  1. When someone starts off a sentance saying, “I’m not a racist, but…” it means I can tell straight away that they have racist opinions (otherwise why would they feel the need to qualify the statement)When he goes over and lives in France do you think he’ll bother learning French? Will he “take jobs” from French people?And the one thing that has always bothered me, is what is their problem with speed cameras?Back in the day, when people got caught speeding they might say to the police who stopped them, “Shouldn’t you be out catching murderers or something important?” and now they are, this is somehow a problem. Aagh!

  2. When someone starts off a sentance saying, “I’m not a racist, but…” it means I can tell straight away that they have racist opinions (otherwise why would they feel the need to qualify the statement)When he goes over and lives in France do you think he’ll bother learning French? Will he “take jobs” from French people?And the one thing that has always bothered me, is what is their problem with speed cameras?Back in the day, when people got caught speeding they might say to the police who stopped them, “Shouldn’t you be out catching murderers or something important?” and now they are, this is somehow a problem. Aagh!

  3. Ah, the paranoia of Little Englanders. If your idea of what it means to be English doesn’t correspond to theirs then you’re obviously a mind-controlled drone. Better notify the Colonel, Margaret: we’ve found another one. Take the Wolseley.You kip if you want to. But the reds under your bed will kill you.

  4. Ah, the paranoia of Little Englanders. If your idea of what it means to be English doesn’t correspond to theirs then you’re obviously a mind-controlled drone. Better notify the Colonel, Margaret: we’ve found another one. Take the Wolseley.You kip if you want to. But the reds under your bed will kill you.

  5. A tradesman who doesn’t have at least three sugars in his tea? I don’t believe it!The whole ‘oppressed heterosexual English male’ mentality is bonkers, but sadly there are a lot of people who believe it. Have France illegally annexed the south coast and not told me? Er…

  6. A tradesman who doesn’t have at least three sugars in his tea? I don’t believe it!The whole ‘oppressed heterosexual English male’ mentality is bonkers, but sadly there are a lot of people who believe it. Have France illegally annexed the south coast and not told me? Er…

  7. Right-wingers (in politics rather than football) could almost be defined by their lack of empathy, to them it’s all black and white – perhaps that’s why they love the past when it was black and white, only it wasn’t. I love the insanity of him moving to France.

  8. Yes, I don’t suppose your tradesman will plunge headlong into the joys of speaking French when he moves to France ! I expect he will keep to his own in a British enclave and not consort with the locals. Berk. It is perfectly possible to be proud and sometimes ashamed of being English, British and European at the same time. My family history is mainly Irish several generations back, as is my surname, and I happily sit on the fence when England play Ireland at football and rugby. (It always seems to be more fun supporting Ireland anyway.) I would be made up to find out that I had any non Lancashire / Irish ancestry to mix things up a bit ! We are all mongrels one way or another.I like being British, but would never sing the National Anthem (partly for obvious reasons and also as my otherwise Conservative dad always said, it’s a bloody dirge!)

  9. Of course a lot of this stems from our mainly ultra-right wing press.The picture they paint of a country riddled with crime (commited nearly always by the ‘ethnics’ as some of my less than gifted workmates call them), of a country over-run by ‘illegal’ immigrants, and millions of eastern Europeans coming to ‘steal our jobs’.This isn’t the England/Britain that I live in. Of course there is crime, I myself was robbed and stabbed in 1987, under the ‘safe’ Thatcher Goverment. And there are people coming to this country to work, the word there is work and pay taxes and NI so whats the problem?I work in a factory with people like this every day, it is demoralising but I still argue with them and leave the Guardian lying about!Good luck with the pipes Andrew.Ian

  10. I met a really nice man once and we got on so well- until I had to drop him like a hot potato when he said “this is such a lovely area to live in- apart from all the Pakis”. Oh dear. Then again I can’t read modern Irish fiction as it all seems to share a common tweeness. I know that’s a sweeping judgement and I do feel ashamed. So we’re none of us perfect, it’s just that people should have the self-awareness to recognise it.For an alternative view of immigration, just read the lyrics to London by Pet Shop Boys, one of their most perfect songs in my opinion:We came from the far Northsummered in Crimeadeserted the armed forceshad to disappearmade it to the free Weston a chartered flightso we could see whatwe trained to fightLooking for hard workor credit card fraudWhat do you expect from us?We come from abroadto get ourselves a new jobon a building-siteThey work you so hardbut we trained to fightMy father fought in AfghanistanHis widow’s pension ain’t worth a damnMy mother works and goes home to cryI want to live before I dieWe were in London“Let’s do it – let’s break the law!”We were in LondonTell it like it isWe were in LondonTell it like it is

  11. I met a really nice man once and we got on so well- until I had to drop him like a hot potato when he said “this is such a lovely area to live in- apart from all the Pakis”. Oh dear. Then again I can’t read modern Irish fiction as it all seems to share a common tweeness. I know that’s a sweeping judgement and I do feel ashamed. So we’re none of us perfect, it’s just that people should have the self-awareness to recognise it.For an alternative view of immigration, just read the lyrics to London by Pet Shop Boys, one of their most perfect songs in my opinion:We came from the far Northsummered in Crimeadeserted the armed forceshad to disappearmade it to the free Weston a chartered flightso we could see whatwe trained to fightLooking for hard workor credit card fraudWhat do you expect from us?We come from abroadto get ourselves a new jobon a building-siteThey work you so hardbut we trained to fightMy father fought in AfghanistanHis widow’s pension ain’t worth a damnMy mother works and goes home to cryI want to live before I dieWe were in London“Let’s do it – let’s break the law!”We were in LondonTell it like it isWe were in LondonTell it like it is

  12. Rule 1- Find an excuse to do something ‘urgent’ whenever tradesmen start telling you their political opinions. Even if you agree with them…………

  13. Rule 1- Find an excuse to do something ‘urgent’ whenever tradesmen start telling you their political opinions. Even if you agree with them…………

  14. I think it’s fantastic that he is going to move to France, because England isn’t english enough. I think I would have started to laugh at him, then again I guess that you wanted to me nice to him, so that he would do a good job for you.How fantastic that the pathetic poem can even spell “Shakespeare”.

  15. I think it’s fantastic that he is going to move to France, because England isn’t english enough. I think I would have started to laugh at him, then again I guess that you wanted to me nice to him, so that he would do a good job for you.How fantastic that the pathetic poem can even spell “Shakespeare”.

  16. This is all very interesting to me, as I live in the U.S., where certain people have tried in recent years to define this country according to their xenophobic, homophobic, conservative, Constitutionally ignorant, rights-restricting, anti-science etc. etc. perspective. I’m not sure quite how to say what I’m thinking, and I know it’s not new, but it can be frustrating to be an American (a term we use just for the U.S., not the two continents of the Americas) when there are loudmouths proclaiming to the world what the U.S. is and is not, redefining “freedom,” “democracy” and even “life.” I guess my point is, I empathize. Being American cannot be narrowly described, cannot be something of which one is entirely proud or ashamed.As I sit here listening to a fantastic public radio show called “This American Life,” thinking about my feelings toward this complex country, living in the capital yet lacking representation in Congress (let’s talk about inequality), I’m glad there isn’t unanimity of thought… I just wish certain people weren’t so damn stupid.

  17. This is all very interesting to me, as I live in the U.S., where certain people have tried in recent years to define this country according to their xenophobic, homophobic, conservative, Constitutionally ignorant, rights-restricting, anti-science etc. etc. perspective. I’m not sure quite how to say what I’m thinking, and I know it’s not new, but it can be frustrating to be an American (a term we use just for the U.S., not the two continents of the Americas) when there are loudmouths proclaiming to the world what the U.S. is and is not, redefining “freedom,” “democracy” and even “life.” I guess my point is, I empathize. Being American cannot be narrowly described, cannot be something of which one is entirely proud or ashamed.As I sit here listening to a fantastic public radio show called “This American Life,” thinking about my feelings toward this complex country, living in the capital yet lacking representation in Congress (let’s talk about inequality), I’m glad there isn’t unanimity of thought… I just wish certain people weren’t so damn stupid.

  18. In my opinion, anyone (except politicians) who talks about politics in such a cut and dried way doesn’t know what they are talking about and are only taking the biased views of the media. They are probably not intelligent enough to know that all things have pros and cons.My boyfriend has the best reply to say to people like that when they are blabbering on, and that is to ask “…and what do you base that on?”. It always gets them as their opinions are taken from someone else and they generally don’t know anything indepth about the subject.I get fed up when people who break the law, be it speeding or anything else, have a go at the item that has caught them in the act. If they didn’t break the law in the first place, they wouldn’t get caught by those “stupid speed cameras”. Why is speeding such an acceptable crime? A lot of my friends, who I think are decent, law abiding citizens, don’t seem to care that they speed. In fact, they think it is so acceptable that they boast about it. They then look at me as though I am some kind of goodie goodie, when I say I don’t speed. Isn’t everyone supposed to stick to the speed limit, or is it just for those who don’t know where the cameras are?

  19. In my opinion, anyone (except politicians) who talks about politics in such a cut and dried way doesn’t know what they are talking about and are only taking the biased views of the media. They are probably not intelligent enough to know that all things have pros and cons.My boyfriend has the best reply to say to people like that when they are blabbering on, and that is to ask “…and what do you base that on?”. It always gets them as their opinions are taken from someone else and they generally don’t know anything indepth about the subject.I get fed up when people who break the law, be it speeding or anything else, have a go at the item that has caught them in the act. If they didn’t break the law in the first place, they wouldn’t get caught by those “stupid speed cameras”. Why is speeding such an acceptable crime? A lot of my friends, who I think are decent, law abiding citizens, don’t seem to care that they speed. In fact, they think it is so acceptable that they boast about it. They then look at me as though I am some kind of goodie goodie, when I say I don’t speed. Isn’t everyone supposed to stick to the speed limit, or is it just for those who don’t know where the cameras are?

  20. There’s me talking about intelligence and I can’t even construct my first paragraph (above) in proper english!Am I allowed to use that word now?

  21. There’s me talking about intelligence and I can’t even construct my first paragraph (above) in proper english!Am I allowed to use that word now?

  22. You’re wrong about Henry V going to war for his approval ratings, Andrew. We covered it in school and it was all because the French sent Henry a load of old tennis balls, which was an enormous insult in the olden days and justifies the slaughter of a bajillion French curs.

  23. Funny how you to take such umbrage at one english person expressing an honest opinion (which is widely held up and down the country.You wouldn’t dare say anything about the islamo-fascists polluting the world with their backward beliefs. I wonder how your gay friends would manage in sharialand.

  24. What an odd thing to say, O Sneakily Anonymous Person. Clarification: I took umbrage at the fact that this stranger felt compelled to foist his honest opinion upon someone he had come round to do a job of work for within an hour of entering their house. I defend to the death his right to have those views, but I also defend to the death my right to be anything ranging from amused to appalled by them. Who said I wouldn’t dare say anything about fascist, Islamo- or otherwise? This is about English nationalism disguised as patriotism from the mouth of someone who loves his country and disapproves of immigration so much he is prepared to … move to another country and become an immigrant (and expect to be treated with all the respect an ENGLISHMAN deserves wheresoever he treads around the globe).

  25. Oh. My. God.To all of it….the ranting builder who doesn’t understand the concept of immigration, the foolish poet – and his fans, and now this anonymous fella.Unbelievable.I started writing but I’m too gobsmacked to carry on….

  26. Oh. My. God.To all of it….the ranting builder who doesn’t understand the concept of immigration, the foolish poet – and his fans, and now this anonymous fella.Unbelievable.I started writing but I’m too gobsmacked to carry on….

  27. Where did the ‘Islamo-fascists’ come into this? Do you believe they are poised to take over the country? I don’t doubt they exist, but on the whole, I don’t believe they are representative of the British Muslim community.

  28. Where did the ‘Islamo-fascists’ come into this? Do you believe they are poised to take over the country? I don’t doubt they exist, but on the whole, I don’t believe they are representative of the British Muslim community.

  29. Blimey Andrew,you know about everything.*impressed*As those Geordie chaps behind Viz had in their Top Tips colums a while back:Racists – start every sentence with the phrase ‘I’m not a racist, but…’

  30. Blimey Andrew,you know about everything.*impressed*As those Geordie chaps behind Viz had in their Top Tips colums a while back:Racists – start every sentence with the phrase ‘I’m not a racist, but…’

  31. Dearest Anon – if your honest opinion is so widely shared amongst the good people of Blighty, why must you hide away in anonymity? Be proud of your views, hold your head up high. Or……could it be that deep down you know that your views are deeply racist and something to be ashamed of?The whole you-wouldn’t-dare-say-that-about-a-Muslim argument has become such a lazy cliche too.

  32. Dearest Anon – if your honest opinion is so widely shared amongst the good people of Blighty, why must you hide away in anonymity? Be proud of your views, hold your head up high. Or……could it be that deep down you know that your views are deeply racist and something to be ashamed of?The whole you-wouldn’t-dare-say-that-about-a-Muslim argument has become such a lazy cliche too.

  33. Personally I think we should bomb all Islamo-fascists everywhere until they’ve learnt the value of Western tolerance. But I wouldn’t dare say that to a racist.

  34. Personally I think we should bomb all Islamo-fascists everywhere until they’ve learnt the value of Western tolerance. But I wouldn’t dare say that to a racist.

  35. Did you argue with him? Or did you you just nod and smile politely while inwardly seething and beginning the preliminary draft of this (excellent) blog in your head?

  36. Romy, I did not argue with him, as he was about to start some work on my house, which I kind of wanted to be good, so it seemed silly to get into a argument with him. I didn’t actually agree with him, just declined to comment. When he gave me the poem, I glanced at it and handed it back. He admired the speed with which I’d read it.

  37. AndrewI had an experience a bit like this at the airport in Rome. I met an American couple who had left the USA for their first ever holiday abroad (they were in their sixties.) Within 15 minutes they had told us – two complete strangers – why our country was dreadful, namely: we allow gay marriage, we don’t have the death penalty, we don’t allow people to carry guns, we have an immigration problem “just like we do in California”, our cruise ships are terrible (they had just been around the Med on a British cruise ship and apparently not enjoyed themselves.)Hmm. Cheers for that.Px

  38. Funny that, foisting views on those who never asked for them in the first place. I’ve always thought that about religion and when doorsteppers show up, feel the desire to propound in an Alister Crowley-stylee – works every time!

  39. Boh, sadly this is a situation that seems to arise time and time again. I always find it difficult to know how to respond as usually, as was the case here, one doesn’t want to prolong things. “Bollocks” often seems to be the most appropriate response, but only at the risk of having things proceed for several arse-aching hours. Frequently I find myself chickening out with a non-committal, “hmmm, not sure about that,” or similar.By the way, I didn’t think that English was the most commonly spoken language is it, aren’t there many many more people who speak Mandarin Chinese and Spanish?

  40. Boh, sadly this is a situation that seems to arise time and time again. I always find it difficult to know how to respond as usually, as was the case here, one doesn’t want to prolong things. “Bollocks” often seems to be the most appropriate response, but only at the risk of having things proceed for several arse-aching hours. Frequently I find myself chickening out with a non-committal, “hmmm, not sure about that,” or similar.By the way, I didn’t think that English was the most commonly spoken language is it, aren’t there many many more people who speak Mandarin Chinese and Spanish?

  41. According to Wikipedia, English “is extensively used as a second language and as an official language in many other countries, and is the most widely taught and understood language in the world. ” I believe them.

  42. You really should do some research, open your eyes and get your facts right before writing such a lengthy piece of dirge as this. Utter, utter, trash. Have you sent this in a letter to the Guardian yet?

  43. Hi Andrew. I saw your posting on this only last week. I started to reply – and my reply sort of grew a bit, so sorry about that. I have tried to be constructive and objective throughout though……Deepest breath.OK, Guardianista World meets Upstairs, Downstairs. (Mellors touches forelock, bows and grovels away back to his shed to read the Daily Sport and have a nice cup of Rosy Lee out of his mug with the St George’s flag on it…… if that’s alright with you Gavnor?)I found your piece just a tad condescending to be honest. The forensic line by line analysis of some crappy 3rd rate poem was OTT – The poem was factually inaccurate – but so were some of your responses. I wouldn’t normally bother correcting someone else’s post – as I think it can get unbelievably petty…… but you started it.ON THE POEM -Firstly, the poem is crude – but it is about identity. It is, after all titled ‘Just don’t say you’re English’. That desire for an English identity is being powered from the grass roots – and it’s come about because of dissatisfaction at the current constitutional and financial arrangements within the UK. The presence of the Scottish Raj is fanning that resentment – and there is a definite perception within the country that decisions being made by this shambles of a government are not being made with the interests of the English population in mind. Previous to 1997, we were pretty much all Britons in England. But not now, oh no. Thanks to Blair and his Pandora’s box of devolution, all that has gone forever. Since 1998, after the Labour government had given Scotland and Wales their democratic heads so to speak, it was inevitable that the English population would start saying, “What about us?” Government strategy to counter this was to geographically break up the country into regions – then start referring to the English population as ‘British’ in the hope it would keep 80% of the UK population quiet. Fortunately, people in England have railed against this – and Labour is definitely rattled. That is why a worried Gordon Brown keeps talking about how he is British first and second. He is trying to keep a lid on English nationalism by proclaiming his supposed Britishness and appealing for us to wrap ourselves up in a cloak of Britishness also. But it didn’t stop him from flying his expectant English wife 400 miles north to give birth to all of her children in an Edinburgh hospital. (she was even rushed north of the border to deliver her late first child which was premature)….. I’d have thought it would be the last thing on his mind. Surely a hospital round the corner from number 11 would have sufficed – after all, London is in Britain isn’t it? (and maybe it also has a few hospitals that have a maternity wing or two?)ON BATTLES -William the Bastard was not French. He was a Norman. The Normans were 4th generation Vikings – ‘North men’ from Scandinavia settled in the area now known as Normandy. Edward the Confessor was half-Norman. True, William was his cousin, but Harold was Edward’s brother in law, so was family by marriage. Edward had also promised the throne to both men at various times during his reign. BTW, I just love the way you’ve written your bit on the battle of Hastings almost in the fashion of William’s favourite war correspondent…… “Yes we invaded England. Yes we slew the flower of Anglo Saxon noblemen and nicked their land. Yes we practised a scorched earth policy on our march up to London. Yes we went ooop north to Yorkshire to rape, pillage and commit genocide on an industrial scale. Yes we robbed blind the richest, most affluent country in Europe – but they asked for it because William was Edward’s cousin, so that’s alright then!!!!…. As for Mons – which doesn’t rhyme with “sons”…. Blimey, a bit harsh there I think. Poetry doesn’t always have to rhyme does it? Petty, petty, petty straw clutching, I think…….. “And the ENGLAND “of old” is taught in schools. That’ll be the ENGLAND that oppressed the Welsh, the Scottish and the Irish”…… No, not really. That’ll more accurately be the dynastic expansionist desires of successive Norman, Angevin, Tudor, Stuart, Dutch and Hanovarian monarchs then – ie, not English (apart from Cromwell – and he was driven by religious zeal). Agincourt – The men who accompanied King Hal were a mixture of Marcher English and Welshmen. All his personal bodyguards were Welsh (his favourite being a guy called ‘Davey’) – Henry was Welsh as well. And didn’t Henry set sail to France believing he had a legitimate claim on the French throne and that his claim was sanctioned by God, just like William’s? A sort of William-Hastings invasion in reverse. Predictably, your little piece on that campaign isn’t quite so sympathetic as your write up of William’s invasion. In fact, to finish the piece on Agincourt, you could have written, “All I’m saying is, there’s some dispute. It’s not cut and dried”….. But you didn’t, remember, you are a Guardian reader.Arnhem – Andrew, I have 4 Sons. The youngest is in his final year at school. They all took history. None of them did WW2, or WW1 for that matter. They know lots of drivel about the social impact of the Corn Laws though – but precious little else.ON SPELLINGS – “Writers like Shakespear [sic]”. Wow, a spelling mistake, but why so significant? Stop Press – Man writing poem misspells Bard’s surname, shock!! Questions asked in House as shocked MPs declare ‘this is the thin end of the spilling wodge’…… Shakespeare himself, his father and the rest of his family frequently spelt their surname incorrectly – as did the local officials of his day when writing the family’s name on official documents. Indeed, Shakespeare used many aliases similar to Shakespeare during his twenties when hiding out with sympathetic catholic families at Lathom House and Rufford Old Hall in Lancashire. ON PATRIOTIC WHITE VAN MEN -The flag of St George did not fly (annoyingly) from every white van during the World Cup – far from it, as well you know. It was flown by lots of different people, colours, creeds, social groups and from lots of different coloured cars, buildings, lorries and bikini tops. People like you trot this well worn cliché out time after time (as did your ‘paper of choice) – probably over the chatting cheese at dinner parties, primarily to illustrate how Neanderthal you and your ilk think the flag waving public of this country are. According to your logic, waving a flag means possessing an IQ of a gnat.Summer flag-waving was a group activity, performed by millions of people, in a collective act of support for the England football team – and what the hell is wrong with that? (Perlease do not answer ‘Nuremburg Rally’, North Korean brain washing, etc, etc) Tell me, are all the millions of people who waved their little Union Flags in 1977 (Queens’silver jubilee) and 2002 (golden jubilee) are they all ‘white van drivers as well – even the grannies?ON THE WORTHY DEBATE – “Now, the devolution of Wales and Scotland and its effect on Parliament, where Welsh and Scottish MPs still vote on issues affecting England, is one worthy of debate”……Sorry, Andrew, Mr Debate got pissed off and has left the building after being comprehensively ignored by Caligula Blair and his mates for nearly 10 whole years. We should have been debating the English question in 1997 and 1998 – along with the Welsh and Scottish versions, like the mature and grown up democracy we are supposed to be.Unfortunately, Blair preferred ‘plan B’ – to rename England as Euro regions – and to democratically short change over 50 million people.You only have to listen to Blair and Brown when they talk about Government policy. They’ll wax lyrical about some legislation being vital for the whole country. They’ll never, ever say the Bill in question only applies to England. They give the impression they are talking about the whole of the UK, because, if they actually admitted the smoke and mirrors policy they practice, then even more English people than now would be questioning Scottish and Welsh MPs legitimacy to vote on English only legislation. Only this week the BBC inaccurately reported that the whole of the UK student population were about to suffer from top up fees. Only last month they reported that the new breed of nuclear power stations would be built ‘across the country’….. They quoted Blair – who was naturally only talking about them being built in England (having privately given assurances to Scots and Welsh leaders that he would not press for them to be built in their respective countries)…. And which country do you think the mountain of nuclear waste is going to be buried in?Since Hutton, the BBC are nothing more that supine poodles – along the lines of Tass or Pravda from the old Soviet era.Anti Englishness is rampant in the UK – and that is a fact. New Labour, the war criminal Blair and his claque of Scottish nodding dog MPs have made sure of that. Tell me Andrew, have you got any kids? Are they going to Uni? If so, better start searching down the back of the sofa for the odd fiver, and lots more beside, you’re going to need it. Tuition fees and now top-ups for England’s students mean they suffer from a particularly insidious education apartheid. No problem for those off to Uni further north though, the good old Scottish Executive picks up the tab for that, courtesy of the Barnett formula cash sent up by good old Gordon – so that’s alright then. I know, I’ve just had a great little idea, if Scottish places are free, maybe you could get your kid in at St Andrews Uni or something – then you too will escape the education tax… Oooops, no that won’t work either. The Scottish Exec’ has passed a law effectively fining any English student from going north to study – so if they have the effrontery to insist on a northern education they pay the tuition fees, plus the top ups, plus the ‘fine’. (BTW, all EU students that wish to study in Scottish Universities can do so free, nix and for nothing).Free eye tests in Scotland, free prescriptions in Wales, Foundation Hospitals only in England, NHS staff only made redundant form English hospitals, free residential care for all of Scotland’s old people – (in England, you’ll need to sell your home to finance residential care). Scottish kids get 87p spent per head on their school dinners – (in England it’s 37p), all of Scotland’s old people got free and brand new central heating systems bought and installed in their homes last year, courtesy of the Scottish Executive. In England, old people are means tested (with the emphasis on ‘mean’). Unelected regional assemblies foisted upon us, full to the brim with jobsworths, busy-bodies and gravy trainers. The head honcho of the North East RA actually declared after the 78% rejection of the NE elected RA referendum somehow gave him a mandate for continued unelected governance…. Of the 4 home nations, England has far less spent per head on Health, Transport and Education than the others. England is the only country in Europe without a national parliament….. Andrew, you don’t think that we are somehow so super special that we don’t need a national parliament do you? Surely, as a democrat, you are demanding an English parliament right now to restore our democratic deficit – just like every other freedom loving country in the world has.I don’t want to hear flaccid arguments about wasteful extra layers of Government, the danger of breaking up the Union, England being just too big to have a single parliament, etc, etc. That should have been thought of when all the devolution sweeties were being thrown about in the late nineties. If the Scots and the Welsh have their own parliament – then I want one in England. If that breaks up the Union then that’s just tough. I want a democratic process in my country – anything less is pernicious racism.Andrew, if you are a true democrat and believe in mandate, representation and the democratic system, you’ll go into the pub tonight and start arguing for a parliament for England….. You can start off the conversation by saying “I know I’m a Guardian reader but’…..Oh yes, almost forgot. A national anthem would be nice as well – just like everyone else in the whole world has. I favour ‘Jerusalem’ – or maybe ‘I vow to thee my country’…..But maybe not, it could be a wasteful extra layer of national anthemery, and we wouldn’t want that, would we?I am not right wing (I’ve voted Labour for 30 years straight – until I saw the light after 1997) – I am a democrat. I just want what Scotland and Wales have – a national government to address our national issues – and what is wrong with that? (it’s called ‘democracy’)

  44. Alfie, your comment deserves a blow-by-blow reply. This post has certainly generated the most discussion, and I like that. I also appreciate the time you’ve taken to pull my post to bits. Now I’ll defend my point of view:”OK, Guardianista World meets Upstairs, Downstairs.”Below the belt. I read the Guardian but find it tows the government line on so many issues I wish there was a decent alternative. I prefer the more questioning stance of the Independent, but its writers are not as good as the Guardian’s and I like something to read in the mornings. But don’t stereotype me because of it. The implication in your humorous first strike is that just because the bloke was a tradesman, he was in some way a “servant”, which really is condescending. I am self-employed. So is he. We both do a job of work for people who pay us to do so. I actually really did object to him coming into my house and eventually spouting his political views in my kitchen. My assassination of the poem was borne of an irritation that this man had gone out to his van, fetched it and brought it into my house and then given it me to read when he might have been getting on with the job he was being paid to do. It may have been OTT, but, hey, I was still pissed off about the fact that this bloke felt the need to stick it under my nose. The very thrust of it – don’t say you’re English – strikes me as self-pitying. If you’re going to write a manifesto, which is what it is, get it right. My attempts to “correct” it may have been a little off, but it was done without recourse to a big pile of history books, just my basic knowledge. My “corrections” were clearly written flippantly. It’s not a historical paper, just a blog posting. But I am a pedant, and you have every right to be pedantic about what I write, so I take most of your corrections on the chin.My friend Billy Bragg has just written a book about English identity (The Progressive Patriot). I haven’t read it. I rather suspect it will be a more useful and wide-ranging debate than the one started on my blog. I think we both believe that devolution is a good thing. I can’t see why Wales and Scotland should be “ruled” by an English Parliament. You mention the “Scottish Raj”, by which you mean that the Scottish MPs voting on non-Scottish issues. That’s daft, and should be sorted out. I am against nationialism. I prefer not to be defined by the country I was born in, or live in. It’s an irrelevane to me. Call me a Northamptonian, fine. I was born there. I live in Surrey currently and I have no loyalty to where I live. I just live there. I certainly have no love for England, or Britain. We once ruled half the world and now we don’t and some of us wish we did. All I can see around the world is a hangover from the mess of Empire. America’s attempt to create a new Empire for themselves isn’t helping much, as this country “rides pillion” on a more powerful nation’s adventure. In other words, you and I cannot agree. I respect your right to be proud of England and to want an English Parlilament, but I don’t have to agree with it.You make informed comments about “Government strategy”, Tory and Labour. I’m sure you’re right about the bloodline of William the Conqueror. The minute we get back this far in history, as your correction proves, it makes a mockery of national identity. We’re all descended from Africans, after all.(By the way, I was taught history very badly at school.)”As for Mons – which doesn’t rhyme with ‘sons’ … Blimey, a bit harsh there I think. Poetry doesn’t always have to rhyme does it? Petty, petty, petty straw clutching, I think”Hardly “straw-clutching” if it’s true. Poetry doesn’t have to rhyme, true, but the person who wrote this poem clearly wished it to. As I say, I was picking it apart for cheap sport, because I was angry. That much was surely clear. I won’t go through every historical point. Here’s a bold response: you know more about history than me. Congratulations. “You are a Guardian reader” used as a rather silly derogatory term. Alfie, I have no sons. I have plenty of nieces and nephews. Anecdotally, they all seem to do the Second World War. I have often told them how jealous I am of them, as I would have loved to do something that interesting when I was a kid.”The flag of St George did not fly (annoyingly) from every white van during the World Cup – far from it, as well you know. It was flown by lots of different people, colours, creeds, social groups and from lots of different coloured cars, buildings, lorries and bikini tops.” Of course, I was making a generailsation based on seeing a lot of flags flying from white vans, which I did, with my own eyes. I find flag-waving at best silly, at worse dimwitted. I don’t go to many dinner parties (oh please stop caricaturing me based on a newspaper I read – it leaves you with nowhere to go wehen criticising me for generalising about vans), but social occasions during the World Cup were all about England, not about “Neanderthals”. I actually think that whatever your colour or nominal “social class”, flag-waving is weird. But then, I’m not a dyed-in-the-wool football fan, as you’ve established, so I don’t wear a team’s colours either. I can see the link, and I see more sense in supporting a local club than a nation. And so Manchester United fans drive around all year with flags sticking out of their windows? The red cross mania seemed a desperate act, like crying over Princess Diana. I do not doubt the commitement of some English football fans, by the way.Also hand off me and my “ilk”. Who the fuck are my ilk? You don’t know who my friends are. Or my family. Or what they do, or what they think. That is “condescending”. You seem to be using some kind of inverted “class” logic that makes it OK to generalise one way but not in another. In answer to your question, “the millions of people who waved their little Union Flags in 1977 (Queens’silver jubilee) and 2002 (golden jubilee)” – which included me in 1977, as I was 12 and did not possess a questioning nature at that stage – were brainwashed. What exactly were were waving them at? “The English question.” I am not fundamentally opposed to an English Parliament. (A Cornish one is going a little far.) However, I am – with some caveats – pro-Europe, as I think a united Europe is the only chance we’ve got of countering a United States. No excuse for the BBC “inaccurately reporting that the whole of the UK student population were about to suffer from top up fees.” Lazy. Embarassing. Likewise, your other examples. I find the news generally, especially TV and radio, to be substandard on the whole. That’s a tricky thing for someone contracted by the BBC to go into in too much detail. There are what’s called “Presenter Guidelines”, by which I must abide. Even in a personal blog. If you go through my posts on political matters, they are usually rather more circumspect than I might be were I discussing them in private. But I don’t think BBC news is up to much. That is why I tend to disbelieve the news on first hearing.I am against top-up and tuition fees, always have been. Likewise, totally unfair that there’s free residential care for all of Scotland’s old people and not ours. But that’s not anti-Englishness. That’s Scotland creating its own legislation, surely? Give a country its legislative head, that’s what you get. This just makes the legislation for the rest of the UK seem draconian and wrong. School dinners, old people means tested etc. all fair points about equality. “Democratic process in my country” – all fair, all a long way from the tradesman in my kitchen, whose main gripe was Polish builders and not being taught Shaw in our schools.I love Jersusalem: socialist anthem. Although the English fans seem happy to sing Rule Britannia and God Save The Queen, and let’s not go there.So you see, we agree on some points. I am man enough to admit my historical blunders. But your argument is undermined by your assumptions about my lifestyle based on a newspaper that is on my kitchen table. If you knew how many angry letters I’ve sent to the Guardian about their reporting or their stance – none of which have been printed – you’d think before labelling me.

  45. Oh dear it seems it IS a crime to be English after all. Silly Liberal comments made by people who in ten years time will be living in France and moaning about England becoming too English. The same people with money who choose to live in Dalston and Brixton and to walk alone at night in these areas because their childhoods were so sterile that they have never known how the ‘other half’ lives. The only thing is these liberals who choose to live in run down parts of town have the choice of going back to ‘safer’ neighbourhoods when the going gets tough or the muggers get rough, the rest of us non liberals have to carry on living in these ‘fabulously cultural diverse areas’. Silly little people. Sorry for any spelling mistakes or bad grammar after all I AM English. Now I must go and knit a new vest from the hair of the lesser spotted goat which i purchased from a divine Bolivian wool shop on the edge of Hackney, whilst I sip my red organic wine made from grapes squashed by the virgins of the ‘galuto’ tribe. To top off the experience I may eat some organic carrots grown by Polish pensioners in the wildest regions of Blackpool. Gosh I do hope Mummy and Daddy don’t forget to send my allowance check to the new digs in Dalston I need to buy a new Porsch in time for my fabbo holiday in Italy, five star hotel only of course darling, have to get away from this crap hole sometimes don’t you know.

  46. goodness! what a silly load of sods these last few posts were! especially beatrice, some top class satire there, chumley, way to bring an otherwise informed and interesting debate back down to playground mud throwing.*sigh* people eh? still, its going to get better before it gets worse…

Do leave a reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s