What a bleak day. We have our first UKIP MP, the Sun newspaper is threatening Muslims to promote their paper, or be seen as terrorists, and I have just found out an EDL march is taking place near my workplace this Saturday. It is enough to make you want to return your passport and say, “I truly am sorry, but I can be no part of this country anymore, it’s soul is rotten, and it’s full of people who in a decent society, would have been drowned at birth”. Why we still allow people who believe that the fictional character you base your morals on, or the melanin content of your skin somehow affect your worth as a human disgusts me.
However, I am trying to be less negative as I have been in the past, so in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I have decided to write a ‘listicle’ of ten things we should celebrate more often, that are not racist, or military, who brutalise nations that never asked for our help, or pathetic and faded, as our clinging to the Malvinas of our cruel empire comes across.
1) Our Cuisine
The laughing stock of the world, who think all our dishes are bland and tasteless, have never truly looked beyond the roast and fish and chips, and seen the rich food history we have- my review of Jane Grigson’s English Food covers this in more detail.
Not only that, but more so than any other nation, our multiculturalism has led to a magpie approach to what our national food is. Indeed, a normal week’s eating and drinking for most English people will almost certainly include at least one of;
- Spaghetti Bolognese, Pizza, or Pasta (Italian)
- Chicken Tikka Masala, or just curry in general (Indian)
- Chicken Chow Mein or any Chinese takeaway (Chinese)
- Chilli Con Carne or Fajitas (Mexican)
- Burger and chips (American)
- Kebab (I’ll let the Greeks and the Turks fight this one out)
- Coffee (Middle Eastern)
- Tea (popular in Portugal when it was introduced by Charles II’s wife, grown in China and India as a general rule)
This list does not even include those less regular treats, such as a French coq au vin, a Spanish paella, or Swedish Ikea meatballs. We have proudly adapted all of these to suit the English palate (indeed, Indian curries are largely vegetarian, Chinese food has a lot less MSG, and souvlaki (Greek kebab) is edible when you’re sober). It certainly makes me wonder what the UKIP and EDL members have for tea, with their proud, isolationist values.
2) Our Sense of Humour
I realise that it is all a matter of perspective, but ours is largely untempered with arrogance, it generally punches upwards, and suggests that underneath the famously reserved and uncomfortable exterior, we are secretly the rudest, and least serious country around. From Shakespeare to Swift, Monty Python to Peter Cook, and Frankie Boyle to Stewart Lee, we can go from highbrow humour to lowbrow scatology, we have it down.
It travels remarkably well too. While on a ferry in Thailand, they showed episodes of Mr Bean, American comedians all seem to mention their love of Monty Python, and Eddie Izzard has had success in trying to export the concept of stand up comedy to countries that have no such scene.
And to refer back to the shame on or nation, here is Stewart Lee.
3) The sports we created, then generously allowed the rest of the world to embarrass us at
Football- even if we didn’t invent it, we codified the laws of the game, and have played a part in making it beloved worldwide. Essentially the opposite of what the EU dodging, muesli eating Swiss have done.
Rugby- we invented cheating at football and made it great. Aussie rules is pretty good, and wusses rugby, or American Football is just terrible.
Cricket– the most gentlemanly game embraces many of the greatest English assets, manners, a respect for lunch and tea, cheating (we prefer ‘gamesmanship’) and complex rules that, much like our language, terrify any newcomer.
Snooker and darts- yep, we’re great at things you can do in pubs. Therefore…
4) Borderline alcoholicism
Not even the Australians compare. There is nothing we can’t celebrate with a drink. And we’re good at it too. We were rocking cocktails in the 14th century. We kept drinking ale even when it wasn’t trendy. Our shrunken livers are the envy of the world.
The Beatles. That was us. And The Smiths. And Led Zeppelin. And Pulp. And Gilbert & Sullivan. And Black Sabbath. And Dizzee Rascal. And Half Man Half Biscuit. And The Clash. And… look about 60% of the good stuff in your record collection. And I claim the Beach Boys, because Brian Wilson’s best stuff came because he wanted to beat The Beatles, and he is the new face of the BBC.
6) We were one of the first places to treat our poor as humans
Admittedly thanks to a Scot, Keil Hardie, founder of the Labour party, and a Welshman, Nye Bevan, we were one of the first nations to introduce free at the point of service health care with the NHS, and unemployment benefits, theoretically meaning nobody should fall too far through the cracks. The systems have both been torn apart by management systems which were created by Franz Kafka, but they are still things to be proud of, and maybe we can still restore them.
7) The Internet
Tim Berners-Lee, the true king of England had a great idea while working at CERN. Thanks to his great idea, we can now share and disseminate inane blog posts, selfies, cat gifs and goat porn worldwide with no delay. It changed the world, and shows what happens when we cooperate with our European cousins. Yes, European, UKIPpers. Get the flip off our Internet post haste.
8) The Language
It’s beautiful. We have stolen from the Norse, the French, the Germans, the Indians, anyone who invades us or we invade, to create a language so rich and complicated that it’s practically unlearnable. Then we rudely demand everybody worldwide should speak it. Perhaps this is the reason we punch above our cultural weight. We can express more complex ideas because our language is ridiculous. Just a theory.
9) We run comics
Alan Moore is a mystical shaman who refuses to have his name on films made of his books, and worships a snake puppet. Garth Ennis writes heartbreaking stories about friendship and war. They also contain the crudest humour outside of a toilet wall. Mike Carey wrote a worthy sequel to Paradise Lost. Warren Ellis is a technoprophet and a wonderful misanthrope. Neil Gaiman is the dark beating heart of English mythology. And Grant Morrison is actually magic, and a conduit between the layers of the universes.
Between them, they have written some of the greatest works of fiction of the last 30 years. Watchmen, From Hell, V for Vendetta, Preacher, The Boys, Lucifer, The Unwritten, Transmetropolitan, The Authority, Sandman, 1602, The Invisibles and Seaguy are all worthy additions to the literary canon, and if you haven’t read them, READ THEM.