England

Finally, after honouring Ireland on St Patrick’s Day, Wales on St David’s Day, and Scotland on, er, Burns Night (sorry to leave you out, St Andrew), as it’s still St George’s Day, I get the chance to focus on England.

(He wasn’t English, but that doesn’t matter.)

Happy St George’s Day, if it means anything to you.

I’ll get three of the more obvious English heroes out of the way first. Do let me know who I’ve forgotten.

– William Shakespeare, whose birthday is believed to be today. Even if he was a tax-evading food hoarder, he introduced some brilliant words to the English language, such as ‘puking’ and ‘zany’.

– Charles Darwin, whose theories of evolution and natural selection shook the world. It’s still shaking, in fact, 130-odd years after his death.

– Isambard Kingdom Brunel, civil engineer and railway pioneer who revolutionised the way we travel, usually pictured wearing a big hat in front of huge chains.

Yet when I first thought who I should like to mention here, ahead of all these giants, the first name that came to mind? The broadcaster, naturalist and natural treasure, David Attenborough.

England invented so many things that today we would find it so incredibly difficult to live without them. William Addis came up with the idea of the toothbrush while he was in prison in the 1770s; Owen Maclaren gave us the collapsable, foldable baby’s buggy; Edwin Beard Budding, the lawnmower.

England, it was you who gave us the first chocolate bar – in 1847. What a gift that was.

Robert Baden-Powell gave the world the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides movements.

There are those who have changed the world completely: the inventors of the modern, chain-drive bicycle (John Kemp Starley), for example; of the seed drill (Jethro Tull); the spinning frame (Richard Arkwright); the steam locomotive (Richard Trevithick); the military tank (Ernest Swinton); the jet engine (Frank Whittle); the reflecting telescope (Isaac Newton); the tin can (Peter Durand).

Just look at us all, staring at our screens for so much of each day. Alan Turing’s ‘Universal Machine’ was the theoretical basis for all modern computers. The first programmable computer, the ‘Difference Engine’, was invented by Charles Babbage way back in the 1820s. Tim Berners-Lee gave us the World Wide Web in 1991 – for free. Just think of the silly money he could have made if he hadn’t been so nice.

Joseph Swan invented the first practical lightbulb before Thomas Edison; Thomas Wedgewood captured photographs – of insect wings – long before Louis Daguerre.

British surgeon John Charnley not only designed the first hip joint, in 1962 he performed the first successful hip-replacement operation.

We can thank Rowland Hill for pre-paid postage; Alan Blumenlein for stereophonic sound; Frederick Gowland Hopkins for the discovery of vitamins.

And although you have long since sold them to the highest bidder, England, you did give the world both Branston pickle and Cadbury’s chocolate. For this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Also for the clotted cream, the greasy fry-ups, the Yorkshire puddings, the faggots (no sniggering at the back, please) the Victoria sponge, the Bakewell tart, the Battenburg cake, the toasted crumpets, the cider and the sheer brilliance that is the idea of squashing a multitude of imaginative fillings between two pieces of buttered bread. My, that was just pure genius.

(But you can keep your nasty, icky Marmite.)

There have been so, so many other brilliant writers beside Shakespeare: Charles Dickens, Geoffrey Chaucer, William Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter, Enid Blyton, George Orwell, Ian Fleming…

I include the radical Gerald Massey, who wrote one of the most stirring poems in ‘Hope On, Hope Ever’.

The landscape painters, Turner and Constable.

I’m leaving out the giants of music because I’d be here all night otherwise, but I do want to mention legendary Queen guitarist, Brian May, for fighting on behalf of badgers. For this, he is now one of my favourite people ever irrespective of his obvious talents as a musician.

To sport, being Welsh, I’m obviously very grateful indeed for the rugby, but England also gave the world cricket (well, obviously), football/soccer, darts, bowls, snooker, rounders, hockey, and, therefore, you could add American football and baseball to the list. I’m not allowed to like any English rugby players, for obvious reasons, but cannot neglect to mention Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne, perhaps England’s most naturally gifted footballer, whose tears at Italia ’90, moved us all – yes, even in Wales – and whose Wembley goal against Scotland during Euro ’96 (forgive me, Scotland) remains a thing of tremendous skill and beauty. I never tire of seeing it.

I have to tip my hat to the great Labour leaders, Clement Atlee, Britain’s greatest Prime Minister (who helped create the welfare state and the National Health Service; decolonised much of the British Empire; nationalised the railways, coal, gas and electricity utilities; and increased both living standards and the economy year on year) and Harold Wilson (who won four general elections, if there are any smug Thatcherites reading; narrowed the gap between rich and poor; liberalised laws on homosexuality, abortion and divorce; abolished capital punishment; and, mercifully, kept Britain out of Vietnam).

A hero of mine is the maverick socialist, Tony Benn. One of many reasons I admire him is for going on BBC News and, against the BBC’s wishes (the BBC had controversially decided not to broadcast an aid appeal to raise urgent funds for Gaza in 2009) stating his case for donations in typical fashion, which included reading out the address to which they could be sent several times, much to the newsreader’s discomfort.

Today, English is the second most widely spoken language in the world (behind Mandarin), the official language of more countries than any other, as well as the planet’s most common second language.

Oh, of course today should be a bank holiday.

Although not all of them are English, a 2002 BBC poll to determine the Greatest Britons produced some intriguing results that I think worth recalling here.

One final thing. I thought it interesting that a YouGov poll revealed that, when English people were asked whether ‘British’ or ‘English’ best described them, 39 per cent felt they were ‘equally English and British’, 35 per cent said either ‘more English than British’ or ‘English not British’, and just 17 per cent said they feel ‘more British than English’ or ‘British not English’. However, 44 per cent of black and minority ethnic English groups regard themselves as either ‘more British than English’ or ‘British not English’, while 25 per cent believe themselves to be ‘equally British and English’. I’m not sure what that means for the future of English identity as such but would love to hear your thoughts.

So, there you go. I could go on for a lot longer, I’ve left out a great many truly magnificent figures, but I’ve spent much of the evening reading mostly about cake so I now gratefully hand over to you. Your favourite English people, places, inventions, food stuffs, words – or whatever else you can think of – if you would be so kind as to share.

Cheers, England.

Author: FEd

Features Editor of David Gilmour's official blog, The Blog ('Features' previously being its rather naff title), affectionately - or lazily - shortened to 'FEd'.

100 thoughts on “England”

  1. also king james who gave us the bible which means so much to our present history.

  2. WAAAAAY off topic here, but I’m already missing Richie Havens. I saw him in Portland, Oregon about 15 years ago, headlining the first night of an international blues festival. He was by far the best part of the entire festival, more moving with his voice and guitar than some entire bands.

    Rest In Peace, Richie Havens.

    1. Wow! I was at that outdoor concert and Richie Havens was great. This year I believe is the 26th year of the Blues festival and I have been to every one. Plus you should check out the line up of the musicians that will be there like Robert Plant and his new band. This Blues Festival we have is for the Oregon food bank and 95 percent of all the money that comes in goes to this program. In fact this Blues Festival is the largest festival west of the Mississippi that goes on for four to five days starting around the Fourth of July.

  3. Sir Clive Sinclair, the inventor of some nice home computers. I still remember my ZX81 and how 2KB were enough to run programs. He also produced one of the first electric vehicles, the C5.

    Sir Winston Churchill, famous writer and painter, whose legacy includes some of the best puns I’ve ever read. He was also know for being prime minister of the UK.

    Taki

  4. You’re allowed to mention English rugby players now that they’re not battering us every year! 😀

  5. Oh and England gave us David Gilmour, who gave us this blog, both priceless! 😉

    How about Stephen Hawking, Alfred Hitchcock, Lewis Carroll, Wayne Rooney (just for Tim 😛 )…

    Owen Jones. I learnt (learned?) about him thanks to this blog (or was it the chatroom?). ‘Chavs, The Demonisation of the Working Class’. I would like to read it if there was a French version, but haven’t still found it. – ? –

    And what… not a single ‘great’, ‘famous’ English woman mentioned in this post?

    I like the English language. My apologies for destroying it too often. My favourite English word is ‘ailurophile’ (much better than ‘ailurophobe’ 😉 ) – It’s a French word too (coming from Greek, I think) but it probably sounds much better in English. Can’t beat ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ or ‘TFIF’, though…

    1. Mea Culpa… I have no idea who they are, but Beatrix Potter and Enid Blyton must be women… 😕

      1. Certainly are. They are best known as children’s writers.

        Beatrix Potter’s gift to the world were tales of Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny, Jemima Puddle-Duck, Pigling Bland, Timmy Tiptoes and so many other charming characters. She also illustrated her books beautifully.

        Enid Blyton’s best known creations were Noddy, The Famous Five and The Secret Seven.

        (Although not everybody considers her depictions of a more rural England – she was writing in the 1940s and 1950s – to be appropriate these politically-correct days and, as such, her books are now carefully edited so as not to offend anyone too stupid to realise that things were once different.)

        Racism row over Blyton festival: Residents in town where author lived clash over plaque to honour writer

    2. The Noddy books were oh, so very harmless and innocent … my Mom had saved many of my Enid Blyton books which I then read to my son when he was young. I used to sing him a song: “I’m a little nodding man, I always nod my head …” I could swear I used to listen to it on a record but perhaps it was just passed down.

      It drives me absolutely crazy how we ‘sanitize’ everything to suit the times … it’s especially prevalent in the U.S. where nursery rhymes and fairy tales have been edited so much they may as well have been written by someone else for goodness sake!

      Another pet peeve is “gender neutrality” — we shouldn’t have to have a law to govern it! What’s wrong with the word ‘penmanship’ as an option if one is not in the mood for using the word ‘handwriting’?

      Talk about rewriting history!

      1. One of the words Enid Blyton used often in her rather twee stories, which is now being edited out, is ‘queer’. It’s not her fault that the meaning of the word has been distorted all these decades later.

        Amusingly, though, in another example of exploiting someone famous now that they’re dead, there were rumours of a lesbian affair with her children’s nanny

    3. I never bothered to find out about Enid Blyton the person … now I know all the juicy bits. :))

  6. Dr. Edward Jenner, born 1749, died 1823.

    He noticed that rural young folk who contracted mild Cowpox could not contract Smallpox. This disease killed up to 20% of the population and was one of the most feared of all time. This discovery was developed into the science of immunology which now allows treatment of many infectious diseases.

    He was a country doctor near Gloucester who also is credited with being the first person to fly a hot air balloon in the UK …. 24 miles!

  7. The Beatles. J.K. Rowling. Fish and chips. Monty Python. Stonehenge. London. Oxford. Jane Austen. J.R.R. Tolkien. All Creatures Great And Small.

    The word: Please.

    That comes to my mind. Hurray for England.

  8. There’s a term the English came up with that sounds so less violent than the American term, but due to the delicacy of the subject, I can’t say it!

  9. FEd,

    How do you leave out Stephen Hawking, especially with the PF connection?

    Thanks.
    Andrew

  10. I’m a big lifelong fan of David Attenborough (the other Sir David!)!

    One of my most treasured possessions is a book autographed by Sir David Attenborough! One of our best friends was writing his nature-biological guide to Australia. He and his wife, both incredible naturalists themselves, took a detour to New Zealand, and stumbled upon the Life of Birds film crew, filming saddleback birds!

    As we love to say to each other, ah, the strenuous life!

    They called us minutes after contact, from a payphone, all 4 of us talking at once and I think I screamed and jumped up and down a bit…

    Several months later, we met them at the airport in their down under dirt and listened to tales of adventure all night long. Those were the days, my friends!

  11. May I play please FEd?

    Pondering over a slice of toast with Marmite and a nice cup of tea (please Sir, may I have some more?) …

    Myrddin Wyllt surveys Stonehenge, and it is good
    In Middle Earth the druids perform the Misty Mountain Hop
    While the virgin and the gypsy frolic on the wily, windy moors
    A drum, a drum is heard over Loch Ness at the foot of Inverness
    With four and twenty blackbirds overhead
    Henry stands composed upon Westminster Bridge
    As the fog envelops Whitechapel in London-town streets
    The demon barber does not serve tea and marmalade for two
    The wind in the willows sways the golden bough
    The Waterloo sunset casts a shadow across Windsor Castle
    As she gently glides across the Thames singing a melody fair
    Although Venus and Mars are alright tonight
    A Prime Minister is selling England by the pound
    St. Paul’s brings the faithful to their knees
    While waiting for Godot … great expectations!

  12. don’t be hating the marmite, possibly the best thing to come out of england apart from david and syd.

  13. My favorite English person is my Mum. And you missed out steak and kidney pudding Fed. Winston Churchill, that man saved the world from tyranny.

    I cannot think of any modern day English or Brits whom I admire, although there are all the British folk out there who are unsung heroes caring for the poor, the weak, and the sick. My favourite heroes of the past and were Welsh are the men who stood up to nearly 4000 Zulus at Rorke’s Drift, they were only there to build a bridge.

    Being British would be a good thing if you Welsh and Scots joined in a bit more and stopped bashing us poor English folk, we didn’t all vote the Tories back in, didn’t yah know.

    1. My favourite heroes of the past and were Welsh are the men who stood up to nearly 4000 Zulus at Rorke’s Drift, they were only there to build a bridge.

      Rorke’s Drift is my neighbourhood!

      I’m ever so thankful for a bit of colonization … we wouldn’t have had a Newcastle, Chelmsford, Dundee, Glencoe or Ladysmith without it. 🙂

    2. Being British would be a good thing if you Welsh and Scots joined in a bit more and stopped bashing us poor English folk, we didn’t all vote the Tories back in, didn’t yah know.

      Well, this is the thing: I’m not convinced that we should all be forced to feel British. It saddens me that racists, quite frankly, have for so long prevented the English from fully embracing whatever it means to them to be English. If ‘British’ hadn’t come to mean ‘English’ to so many people – all around the world and including these isles of ours – I think the Welsh and Scots would probably feel more comfortable with the catch-all label. But they shouldn’t be forced.

      I’m trying to find out if that YouGov poll extended beyond England, because I’d be interested to learn how many Welsh or Scots viewed themselves as British first and foremost.

      As I’ve said before, the British flag does not represent me because it does not include Wales, and I also have issues with the British anthem (and not just because it’s England’s anthem, which therefore only confirms all of the above prejudices), so I’m not going to abandon Wales for Britain any time soon.

    3. Was just going to post the following and thought it appropriate to put it here:

      I’m not sure what that means for the future of English identity as such but would love to hear your thoughts.

      I actually worry (honest) about the future of the English identity because more than any other within the UK it seems to be getting hijacked by some really nasty minorities trying to make it the ‘acceptable’ face of racism.

      Maybe having a bank holiday for St George’s day would be one of claiming that identity back for the quietly desperate majority.

    4. Here is a GREAT modern era Englishman Damien, Alf Morris. He introduced the first act of law (anywhere in the world) to protect sick and disabled people. He went on to become the first minister (again, anywhere in the world) for disabled people. His work therefore also made life better for all the carers, the unsung heroes. 🙂

      Fed, Alf Morriss built upon the National Assistance Act introduced by Clement Atlee’s government. 🙂

      ash

    5. Maybe having a bank holiday for St George’s Day would be one of claiming that identity back for the quietly desperate majority.

      Agreed!

      I think a view the world may have of “the English” and that they may have of themselves, is that they are very patient, tolerant, and well mannered. I think this could be what has led to them being walked on by certain factions.

      I think when a group of people have lived with our type of society, i.e. where we are caring and understanding and compassionate, it takes us aback when someone else behaves in an agressive or greedy or violent or sly (and all the other negative things), way.

      We are not used to seeing it, don’t expect it, don’t know how to react and are rather embarrassed therefore don’t speak out about it. So it perpetuates and snowballs until it is out of control and probably very different from the original incident. I think.

      I think English people, indeed all of Britain needs to recognise and hang on to our identity.

      Or maybe we need to evolve and give up some of our moral values, go with the flow, let it happen, if you can’t beat them, join them. (Don’t count me in, however.)

      ash 🙂

    6. Surely since the Reformation being English is to reject all saints and burn a papist on Bonfire Night?

  14. Sir Francis Drake

    “But let them take heed that if they go homeward, for if I find them in my way I will surely sink them.”

    His achievements include being the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe; only one ship had achieved this before. In 1997 it was finally established to the satisfaction of the American National Maritime Historical Society that it was Drake who discovered Cape Horn in 1578, not the Dutch, who are credited with finding it in 1616.

  15. An ideal opportunity for another A to Z, me thinks (just for Michele’s benefit)…

    Adrian IV, Pope – only English pope
    Bader, Douglas – Fighter pilot
    Clarke, Arthur C. – Writer/Inventor
    Davy, Humphry – Chemist/Inventor
    Elgar, Edward – Composer
    Foster, Norman – Architect
    Gilmour, David Jon – Errrmmm, say no more
    Hawking, Stephen – Cosmologist
    Idle, Eric – Comedian
    Jason, David – Actor
    Keynes, John Maynard – Economist
    Lutyens, Edwin – Architect
    Moore, Patrick – Astronomer
    Nelson, Horatio – Naval officer
    O’Rourke Steve – Band Manager
    Priestley, Joseph – Chemist/Theologist
    Raleigh, Walter – Explorer
    Stephenson, George – Civil/Mechanical Engineer
    Talbot, William Henry Fox – Inventor/ Photography pioneer
    Ustinov, Peter – Actor/Dramatist
    Vanbrugh, John – Architect/Dramatist
    Wren, Christopher – Architect
    Xpatriates – Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, Bob Hope, etc.
    Yorkshiremen – more English than Englishmen
    Zoologist – Desmond Morris

    I think I’ve managed to avoid any duplication of your catalogue of eminent Englishmen/women, Fed.

    1. Sir Peter Ustinov was not an Englishmen, was he? I think that if someone was an inter-national, then he was… Loved his movies, but even more his books…

      Taki

  16. Mmm, the union flag. England, Scotland, Northern Ireland. Very odd the Welsh colours are not represented in the union flag. I never understood why Northern Ireland is in it when it is after all a part of someone’s country forcefully annexed.

    The more I look into being British the more I feel English. I always promote myself as English, or then again a European citizen. I once heard that the Welsh are the true English as well as the Cornish.

    I don’t see anyone being forced to feel or be British. After all, the Scots will vote on it so why not Wales if that’s what you want. I’m usually proud to have been associated British and knowing full well it was always a union of three nations I thought to be proud of. It was never a question of the English are superior in the union, not in my mind anyway. British to me always meant England, Scotland, Wales.

    Kind regards
    Damian

    1. I too had a look at our national flags last night because of Fed’s complaint.

      I wondered if the Red Dragon, how magnificent it is, should be incorporated into the Union flag. I came across the fact that it is incorporated in the flag of Malta!

      ash

    2. I asked a Welshman why Wales was not represented in the Union Flag. He said, because Wales is a principality…

  17. Wow Pavlov, you’re so lucky. Maybe you could get some photos of the battle area, that would be great.

    Don’t throw those bloody spears at me. – Michael Caine

    Damian

    1. I like the Michael Caine quote from the Great, British film that featured Great, British cars, Minis. “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!” :))

      ash

  18. Hi Fed, got the juces flowing now. Have a look at the website projectbritain.com – Wales and it explains why Wales is not represented in the union flag. And it has the Union Jack with the Welsh dragon in the middle of it. Looks great I think.

  19. David Gilmour, my favorite English musician, philanthropist and celebrity. Then, Michael Caine, Kenneth Branaugh, Susan Boyle, and J.K. Rowling. And of course, Emma Thompson.

    As for others, Dame Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens. They gave me so many hours of joy at my favorite pastime, reading.

    My favorite real English hero is Winston Churchill and my favorite fictional hero is James Bond. 🙂

    Can’t leave out My Fair Lady or Mary Poppins (she was my children’s favorite character). 🙂

    There is also, Piers Morgan who gives our politicians hell. I especially like the way he goes after our gun laws recently and those who oppose new ones. He hates the NRA and so do I.

    I love Beef Wellington and the words, “Bloody,” “Cheers” and “Mate”. 🙂

    There are lots of other favorites, maybe I’ll get to them later.

  20. I guess my fave Brit would be my wife, after leaving England at an early age to meet up with me in Canada at a later date.

    How about Christopher Wren, who I believe built Albert’s Hall so David and others could play there.

    A Very Happy Birthday to Ella Fitzgerald today, 97 years? OMG!!!!

  21. I think whether you see yourself as British first and Scots, English, Welsh or Irish second and vice versa depends on who is asking you how you identify yourself.

    If it is a fellow Brit, you tell them your nationality *, if a foreigner asks you, you tell them you are British. And yes, it is extremely tiring and irritating that most non Brits think Scotland, Wales and Ireland are all “English”.

    * In exactly the same way we tell a fellow country man which Shire or area we are from.

    I also think, well I very much hope, that as a Nation, all British people will defend each other against all comers (and return to our squabbling with each other when we have defeated the enemy and driven them off).

    United we stand. 🙂

    ash

  22. Must not forget about Monty Python, The Goon Show, Sadler’s Wells, the Royal Academy of Music and Ian Fleming.

    For Michèle, some ladies: the Brontë sisters, Jane Austen, Lady Godiva, Jane Goodall, Georg Eliot, Florence Nightingale and Nigella Lawson.

    Spotted Dick, ha’penny and roly-poly always made me chuckle. Love the words twit, git, trollop, codger and all sorts of other now antiquated English/British words and expressions. Often have to think twice (perhaps thrice 😉 ) [’cause you know sometimes words have two meanings] in the States.

    1. Also for Michèle…

      We must add the Pankhursts, Emmeline and her daughter Christabel, who went to great lengths in the campaign to gain votes for women (though thankfully not as far as Emily Davison, who was killed when she threw herself in front of the King’s horse at the 1913 Epsom Derby in an attempt to stop the race).

    2. Another is Elizabeth Fry, best known as a prison reformer in the early 1800s, but she also reformed hospitals, workhouses and asylums, founding soup kitchens for the homeless and establishing her own training school for nurses. Her methods would later influence Florence Nightingale.

      A shame that she is to be removed from the five-pound note and replaced by Winston Churchill.

      1. Has to be Margaret Thatcher, don’t you think? Only because plebs are noticing that, other than the Queen, suddenly there are no women featured on our notes and obviously she’s the only woman who has ever done anything.

        Sorry. I noticed Young Margaret in the TV listings tonight. Thought it would be safe to scroll through them by now but clearly I need to give it more time.

    3. Thank you, FEd and Pavlov. I learn a lot from this blog.

      The Pankhursts. You’re referring to the the ‘Suffragettes movement’, right? (that inspired France, I’m thinking of Hubertine Auclert). Great, courageous women. I think that French women only got the right to vote in 1944. A shame.

      As for any form of recognition, I saw that both Emmeline Pankhurst and Elizabeth Fry had been honoured on British stamps. 🙂

    4. Sorry. I noticed Young Margaret in the TV listings tonight. Thought it would be safe to scroll through them by now but clearly I need to give it more time.

      I reckon if they’d called it ‘Young Margaret – The Mr Whippy Years’ they’d have got more viewers.

    5. Ah yes, Elizabeth Fry, another of Norfolk’s finest. So, Michele, with Thomas Paine as well you can be a big fan of Norfolk.

      Unfortunately Norfolk is also known as “Nelson’s County”, and you shot him, so there the romance ends!

  23. Of course England also gave us Bond, James Bond. I’m thinking from the character perspective and not from the perspective of all the actors who played the character. Although some of them are worth a mention as well.

    Thanks.

    Andrew

  24. Hi Ho FEd,

    A thoroughly enjoyable post. Although a proud born and bred Australian, your post lists so many of the reasons why I am proud of my English heritage. The truly wonderful thing is you limited yourself as much as possible, showing how much more there is for us to be proud of (supported by the many additions already posted, and quite a few more I can think of).

    Thank-you, and a happy, belated, St George’s Day to your good self.

    Christopher

    1. Thanks, Christopher. I have kicked myself more than once today for leaving out perhaps the one person who has made me laugh more than any other (usually through the medium of song whilst dressed as a woman): Ronnie Barker. What a very funny, very clever, and very humble man he was.

  25. Well I’ve kept my powder dry this long ‘cos being English seems much easier to discuss if you ain’t! I should preface any remarks with the disclaimer that generalisation over such a large topic is inevitable and dangerous, but then where would we be without a bit of over-generalisation, eh?

    A lot of fine and upstanding English folk have been mentioned already. A shout-out for possibly the greatest English “mind” ever who I think has escaped mention so far … Isaac Newton, who was so much more than an apple botherer. I can also big-up Norfolk’s own Thomas Paine whose treaties on the “Rights of Man” inspired revolution in France and cost us a useful asset in the Americas. And you are quite right, Michele, let’s add Mary Wollstonecraft, who wrote equally well on the “Rights of Woman”.

    No doubt about it, England has punched above its weight historically (and too often physically). That has rather a lot to do with London, like it or not, which has been a centre of culture, trade, etc. for a long time and whose geography as port, link to Europe and the original World Trade Centre has exerted an undue gravitational effect on the rest of these islands. This unique trading power, itself in combination with growing empire, also sparked wider wealth in the great ports of Bristol, Liverpool, and sparked the Industrial Revolution, which being a bit grubby, happened largely “up North” (only joking). This splendid head start bought us the time and wealth to lead culturally and to refine just the right balance of tea and scone to go with clotted cream, strawberry jam and fancy cakes (just for Lorraine). As I am constantly reminding Michele, it also lead to the development of the great tradition of English cuisine.

    However, it is rather difficult to differentiate England from Britain. England first stepped out of the shadows, one might argue, in the reign of Elizabeth I. Before that our influence was mostly in France (where our Norman heritage bound us) and the odd Crusade (a habit we find it hard to break, sorry Middle East), although important steps had been recorded in Magna Carta, the establishment of seats of learning at Oxford (boo) and Cambridge (hoorah) and a growing intolerance towards the influence of the Pope, bless him. But really, most of what we either celebrate or curse happened after the Act Of Union and, in our London-centred way, this binds England and Britain together as an idea more strongly than (it appears) Wales and Scotland. (As has been mentioned before, the Irish, bless them even more, are not British. Those in Ulster make up the United Kingdom with the British.)

    I think we can also identify other factors which lead to a dilution of a strong English identity:-

    – Our considerable historical multiculturalism (see previous blogs), itself a product of trade.
    – The predominance of local and regional identities. Rather than English we tend to see ourselves as Cockneys, Scousers, Brummies, Geordies, Yorkshiremen, or, if we come from East Anglia, carrot crunchers. We then tend to jump to British in the name of efficiency.
    – Dare I say it, the Welsh and Scottish identity is partly down to a sense of oppression by English incursion, a distance from London and to a degree a celtic “racial” identity (if such it is).

    Interestingly, the Scottish in particular were very active participants in the British Empire (see Pavlov’s list for example), but then the Scottish flag is better represented in the Union Jack, being blue and all.

    As Lorraine has said, the idea of Englishness is too often hijacked by right-wing, racist ideology. For what it’s worth, I prefer to think that if we can focus on liberty, fair-play, politeness, diplomacy, justice and stoicism we would do better … and I’m afraid “hanging on in quiet desperation” is always going to be in the mix as well.

    1. Ah I see Isaac Newton did get a mention in Fed’s piece although I feel that formulating the laws of physics was a tad more significant than inventing a telescope unless you happen to be a cosmic peeping Tom.

      We might also give a round of applause for the English town of Greenwich for being the benchmark of World time (and in so doing inspiring a splendid song and wonderful guitar solo). 🙂

    2. Glad you mentioned Greenwich Mean Time, Tim — I had wanted to …

      An honourable mention to the White Cliffs of Dover known the world over, a shout-out to “Scotland Yard”, Paddington Bear, Pears soap and Rose’s lime juice.

  26. … Thomas Paine whose treaties on the “Rights of Man” inspired revolution in France…

    “Inspired”?

    1. Ah, Madame professeur, vous avez raison pour m’interroger. Je devrais avoir dit « soutenu » comme il a écrit en 1781, bien que peut-être il ait inspiré des événements suivants?

    2. Madame le professeur vous félicite pour votre Français, Monsieur l’historien, pas pour votre interprétation de l’histoire de France… 😛

      “Soutenu” sounds perfect. Cheers, Tim. 🙂

  27. A bit off the subject, but still worthy of saying.

    My son, Jesse-27, has never shown much Pink Floyd interest.

    He came in while Coming Back to Life was playing on P.U.L.S.E. and now he is hooked. He has also fallen in love with On An Island.

    A new generation Floydian!

  28. I cannot believe I forgot about the concertina!! Granted, the jury is out (for those who ponder these things) on whether it is of English or German descent. Looks like the English beat the Germans by about 5 years … invented by Sir Charles Wheatstone.

    The concertina is a South African ‘staple’ instrument in what is known as “Boeremusiek” and sounds like this (not dissimilar to American bluegrass sans the concertina and at a different tempo).

  29. A footnote of sorts … the Boer use of the concertina most likely was an influence more of Germanic origin than English. I suspect there wasn’t all that much ‘love’ going around between the English and the Boers back in the day. 😛

  30. Thanks, England, for Earl Grey Tea!

    It’s perfect to sip and soak up one of the multitude of English poets, playwrights, authors and artists we’re so grateful for.

    Their names are far too numerous to mention without brewing up a pot… *sip* Now, where was I?

    Oh: thanks for the tea, England!

  31. What would all the crazy American celebrities do without Lloyd’s of London? They insure legs, hands, breasts, faces, voices, you name it. 🙂

    On another note, ladies hats. It is copied very happily here today by all the women attending the Kentucky Derby, (our version of the Royal Ascot, I guess). I’ve seen many mimicking the ones Kate has been wearing lately. London does it, America is not far behind. 🙂

  32. The Magna Carta. David Belasco, playwright of “Madame Butterfly”. I think a lot has been mentioned already. So I can only agree. But the music scene is outstanding; especially Mr. Gilmour.

  33. It’s about 1:30 am here in Mississippi, US and I had forgetton to get today’s mail. I got an interesting letter from the Veteran’s Hospital. It seems that instead of having a nasty virus, I had a mild heart attack and have an enlarged heart. Now I don’t know about you, but I am getting kind of tired of all of this crap! How am I going to get a date with a Frankenstein looking foot and unpredictable “ticker”?!

    BUT there is good news in all of this. I finally got some glasses that let me do needle work and read my copy of Perfect Lives which just arrived. (I am REALLY enjoying Polly’s book!)

    What sucks the most about all of this is that with all the new medications they loaded me up with, do I pay rent, buy groceries or all these meds?!

    Any suggestions?

    1. I’m glad you’re enjoying Polly’s book at least. Please look after yourself.

    2. Skimp on the meds and you may find yourself saving on the food and rent, Juve.

      Luckily not a choice we have to make in mad, liberal old UK.

  34. Has anybody mentioned Professor Brian Cox, CBE? He has become a great science educator, I love watching and listenening to him.

    😀 I met him once. . . he was, can I say performing? The Infinite Monkey Cage were touring a stage show a few years ago, it was great, I wish they’d do more of these things. Anyway, I had some books and went to the stage door, handed them in and asked if they’d ask for signatures.

    Prof Cox came out to meet me! He’s tall, and his smile is always present. 😀 It was as if he wasn’t used to having fans or doing book signings. He really is a nice person, just like on TV.

    Mind you, there were professional autograph hunters there too. That was strange, I talked to some of them, they didn’t even have tickets for the show and didn’t know anything about science! They were still hanging around when I went off to the to take my seat.

    ash

  35. Sorry, but getting no help in the chat room.

    Are we getting Experience Editions of AMLOR, Division Bell, Saucerful of Secrets, Atom Heart Mother, Meddle, Ummagumma?

    1. Let’s hope so. Just the three Experience and Immersion editions for now, though: Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall. Can’t say more than that.

  36. Oh and thanks for giving us the ‘bad boys of Rock ‘n’ Roll’, England!

    Happy 50th Birthday to ‘Come On’, their first single recorded on May 10, 1963, I think?

    50 years… Can you believe it? 8|

    1. I’ve been a life-long fan of the Rolling Stones, I’ve seen them many times, have loads of tour t shirts and other stuff.

      I’ve fallen out with them now though. They are greedily f***ing over their British fans – who made them – by charging such exorbitant ticket prices. Again they demonstrate that they are the bad boys. How nasty a way to demonstrate it.

      Leaves a very bad taste in your mouth and having been a life-long fan, I can’t bear to listen to anything by them now.

      Maybe they realise the long-time fans have gotten over them so they are just going for the idiots who will pay silly prices so they can say, “I saw the Stones”.

      Shameful, disgraceful. I wish they’d just stop now because they are spoiling the memories I have of them, maybe lots of us have of them.

      ash 🙁

    2. P.S. Not that they care, the b****rds!

      You’re all with me though, aren’t you? 🙂

      1. Oh, I am. My concert-going days are behind me. Tickets are too expensive, theirs clearly are.

    3. Have to agree with you Ash although with one caveat, I think it’s the promoters/agents that set the ticket prices. Of course if they (the band) were the good people we like to think they are, and gave a damn (which they don’t), they’d get involved and host a few ‘free’ concerts in key cities or insist on reasonably priced tickets.

      I too have been a lifelong fan but in recent years, have tired of them.

  37. Tim, for what it is worth from a plain old Ohio country gal, I was taught growing up that the English were polite, diplomatic, stoic and displayed fair-play in their behaviors. I’m talking of the English people, not necessarily the monarchy. On the other hand, Americans were a bunch of raucous, emotionally unstable hellraisers. (The great bully on the playground.) 🙁 I think the English have quite a lot to be proud of.

    Pink Floyd taught me about the “hanging on in quiet desperation” part, but it does seem to fit, doesn’t it? 🙂

  38. Hi Fed, I shared a great black ‘n’ white photo of Pink Floyd having a game of football. Have you seen it? On Rock ‘n’ Roll site, I think.

    Damian

  39. To Groovyjuve,

    This is important info for you. Being a retired nurse I know this first hand. Every pharmaceutical company has a “patient assistance program.” If you cannot afford your meds, they will provide it free. Go to the library and get a copy of a PDR (physician’s desk reference). Look up the company info on the companies that make your meds. Get their toll free patient assistance number and call them. They will send you a form to fill out and return with a written script for your medication. They will then send the medication free to your doctor’s office for them to dispense to you. Some companies do this for a fee, but you can do it yourself, it’s really easy.

    I hope this info helps you, and please take care of yourself. Best Wishes. ♥

  40. Right come on, own up Fed, are you looking forward to Eurovision, especially with the lovely Bonnie representing the UK? I think she will win it with a great voice and good song.

    Damian

    1. Damian, I cannot lie to you; I did watch it (well, it was on in the background and I glanced at it occasionally) and I thought Bonnie gave it her all. She was never going to win, though. It’s not about the best song winning, is it? It’s all a big farce, with countries voting for their neighbours, probably out of fear in some cases.

      That said, I’m not sure it was the best song. I wanted Greece to win, although I doubt Angela Merkel did.

  41. A little off topic but worth a mention of first known guitar in space. Commander Chris Hadfield from Canada just got back from his stint on the Space Station and had taken his beloved guitar with him. Helped pass the time and keep him happy.

  42. Harold Wilson…Oh dear. Too easy to forget at this distance in time what a disaster that period was. The post-war Nationalisation program was a complete farce…it ruined everything it touched…especially the railways.

    It’s very hard to find genuinely praiseworthy politicians of any shade – they are mostly overpaid, self-serving navel-gazers who think that their opinions matter more than the Electorates’… What a funny old world. We used to have ‘conviction-politicians’ – now we have politicians with convictions…

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