And Was Jerusalem Builded Here….

23 04 2011

And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

First verse of ‘Jerusalem’ by William Blake

Today is St. George’s Day, the patron saint of England whose death is remembered on this day every year. Unlike some American memorial days the date never changes and every year on April 23rd, the English celebrate the life of a Turkish soldier who killed a dragon in Libya (pre-Ghaddafi) by huge parties and parades.

Well, that is what most English people would like to happen but it is only very recently that the English have begun to adopt any sense of national identity. Being part of the UK has always meant that most English – despite having the largest chunk of the island and the biggest population – have preferred to keep their English-ness in the cupboard like a secret identity that shouldn’t really be talked about. When it comes to celebrating patron saints, we have always lagged behind Global Guinness Day and National Eating-Haggis-Is-Fun Day whilst even the Welsh day of  male choral harmonies/devouring leeks is considered worthy of mention.

Too many people think that England is nothing more than warm beer, crap food, The Beatles and football hooligans. To be fair, most English people probably think that as well.

However the last few years have seen the English start to realise that there is much more to this green and pleasant land.

Great Britain may have had an Empire but the centre of it was England, the UK may be a financial powerhouse but London is where the money comes from. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may have their own devolved parliamentary assemblies but the Houses of Parliament are in Westminster and the country is run from England. The Royal Family may be of Germanic descent but the Queen spends a lot of time in England and whilst we haven’t won a World Cup since 1966, the most  globally watched football league is the Premier League.

So as a proud Englishman, St. George’s Day is an important part of the calendar.

In honour of this day, I thought I would list some of the reasons why I will always be English first, British second;

The Full English Breakfast

Probably the meal I miss most now that I live in America. Proper bacon, sausage, fried eggs (not over-easy or sunny-side up, just fried), baked beans, black pudding and fried bread and, sometimes, a side of bubble n’ squeak. It has to be prepared properly; the sausage needs to act as a breaker between the beans and the rest of the food otherwise the bean juice mixes with the egg and the black pudding, the bacon must have just the right ratio of fat/meat percentage and of course the meal can only be accompanied by a cup of tea (preferably PG Tips).

The BBC

The greatest media organisation in the World. Birthplace of Dr. Who, Match of the Day, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers and Porridge. Excellent news reporting, documentaries and natural history programmes that Disney can only dream of. The reason why we have to buy a TV license – not because of the programmes but it’s illegal to watch a television in the UK without one and the money goes to the BBC.

Music

With the exception of the Scouse Mopheads (on whom I have expressed opinion before), we have given the world Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Queen, Elton John, Coldplay (see The Beatles), Motorhead, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Duran Duran, Muse, Oasis, Blur and Ozzy Osbourne. And the Spice Girls.

Inventions and Discoveries(I needed Wikipedia for most of these)

The jet engine, the first industrial spinning machinethe first computer and the first modern computer, the World Wide Web along with HTTP and HTML, the first successful human blood transfusion, the motorised vacuum cleaner,[219] the lawn mower, the seat belt, the hovercraft, the electric motorsteam engines. e Darwinian theory of evolution and atomic theory.[220] Newton developed the ideas of universal gravitationNewtonian mechanics, and infinitesimal calculus, and Robert Hooke his eponymously named law of elasticity. Other inventions include the iron plate railway, the thermosiphontarmac, the rubber band, themousetrap“cat’s eye” road safety device, joint development of the light bulb, steam locomotives, the modern seed drill and many modern techniques and technologies used inprecision engineering. Not too shabby for a small island.

World Famous People

Sir Winston Churchill, J.K. Rowling, David Beckham, Lord Nelson, Tolkein, Michael Caine, James Bond (fictional character, played by three Englishmen to date), Alfred Hitchcock, John Cleese, Simon Cowell, John Maynard Keynes, Thomas Paine, Helen Mirren, Eric Clapton, Sir Walter Raleigh, Douglas Adams, Tony Blair, William Shakespeare – and these are the ones that I gave myself a time limit of 60 seconds to think about. On behalf of the English, I would like to apologise for Victoria Beckham, Amy Winehouse and Piers Morgan.

To be fair, this post could go on for some time. With that in mind, I am going to stop writing and make myself a nice cup of tea before watching my football team on television (invented by a Scot, perfected by the English) and then head out to have a couple of pints of warm beer with some fellow ex-pats. I shall be nailing my colours to the wall today. As a famous writer of some popular plays once said, “Cry ‘God for Harry! England and Saint George!’.

I may not be a religious man, but on April 23rd, I will embrace being English with the same enthusiasm that others reserve for their faith. Tomorrow, I will go back into my cupboard.

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One response

23 04 2011
KC Donovan

Ahhh…well put my homesick friend – and as explained quite a lot to be homesick for…

Although I only lived with an English housemate for two years, if you were like her, I think you may be missing the marmite on toast with your proper English Breakfast…and you HAD to remind me of the bubble n squeak just before dinner – didn’t you…

oh yeah – apology accepted and lets try to keep those to a minimum please!

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