Saturday, 30 April 2011

Best of British to you

It’s not often the nation is gripped, but the Royal Wedding has been one of those occasions. Crowds turned out in unprecedented numbers – a million, compared with 600,000 at the wedding of Charles and Diana. Maybe it’s the depressing economic situation, maybe it’s the fact that we’ve all been waiting along with Kate for William to do the right thing, or maybe it’s just that this time, we’re pretty sure it’s a marriage built to last. Whatever the reason, Britain was ready to party.

I think we all surprised ourselves with just how moving we found the sight of London’s streets filled with parties, flags and well wishers.
Could it be that there is some patriotism buried deep in our collective psyche?  Perhaps the fact that we started drinking champagne early in the day also helped.

Like any wedding, the hour or so of nervous anticipation climaxed as the car arrived and we got our first glimpse of Kate and THAT dress, looking every inch a Princess. I for one was relieved when she made it up the aisle with no mishaps. (Am I crazy, or was that dress an inch too long at the front? I was terrified she‘d trip!)

Facebook was all of a twitter, and it turns out that I have many more royalist friends than I was aware of – and within minutes, several profile pics had been changed into union jacks. It seems that the sudden freedom to fly our flag has had an intoxicating effect and we want MOAR!

So, does this signal a glorious new era in radical patriotism? That’s not very British, is it?

This becomes painfully obvious when we take a peek at the attitudes of other countries. Watching television in Australia, I was surprised at the number of times they slip in a reference to their country – even if it’s just “Skippy... Australia’s favourite peanut butter.”And America takes national pride to a whole new level, with a rousing rendition of their national anthem at every sports game. (Yes, I know that our sports players mumble along, but in the US, if you sing the wrong words, people actually notice.)

Did anyone else notice that X Factor had a week for “American anthems” (Born in the USA, American Pie, etc) but there was no “British Anthems” week? The best we can offer is a week of "homegrown talent' – there isn't exactly a rousing chorus of Born in the UK, nor a London State of Mind.
If you look out for them, there are plenty of songs which do refer to the big smoke – Lily Allen springs to mind, as does Duffy’s Warwick Avenue. (Check out songs_about_London - sadly missing Soho Nights by the Puppini sisters). So why don’t they make it onto the massive X Factor platform? 

Patriotism has become a dirty word. Lest we forget, back in 1996, Geri Halliwell was told by a stylist that her infamous Union Jack tea towel dress was “racist”. Thankfully Geri (who may be a few beans short of the full can, but I like her anyway) took no notice and created a little fashion moment of her own. Unfortunately when a political party / bunch of mentalists hijack the flag, it becomes something the rest of us are leery about. 

I think the time has come to reclaim it. We have a Royal family which has become cool overnight, and quite a lot to be proud of: 

Brit William Wilberforce – strong campaigner against slavery, resulting in the 
Slave trade act of 1807 (long before some other countries banned it).

Our Comedy

Britain has an outstanding comedy pedigree, with a great history of classic sitcoms and Ealing comedies. Some might even mention the Carry On films. Whether they have attracted a cult following all over the world or they have a uniquely British sense of humour, these are some of our best.
  • Fawlty Towers (quoted daily in my family. The nice thing is, most other people get the jokes too. Which makes all the fans a kind of family. Yay.)
  • Only Fools and Horses (ditto).
  • Monty Python
  • The Good Life (hands up who watched this as a child and now keeps chickens?)
  • The Two Ronnies
  • The Royle family
  • Some Mothers Do 'Ave Em
  • The Office
  • Ab Fab
  • Wallace and Gromit (as nail biting as any Hollywood action film!)
  • Blackadder
  • Mr Bean
  • Morcambe and Wise
  • IT Crowd
  • Spaced


Britain has produced some of the finest, funniest and most respected actors ever.
  • Laurence Olivier
  • Helen Mirren
  • Hugh Laurie (some American fans of House are apparently unaware of this. I want to be there when they see him as Bertie Wooster)
  • Hattie Jaques
  • John Le Mesurier
  • Audrey Hepburn (ok, so she was born in Belgium, to a Dutch Baroness and an English banker. She made her movie debut in a Brit flick)
  • Kate Winslet
  • David Jason
  • Robert Pattinson (Yes, Brit vampires are the best. Swedish are second best.)
  • Judi Dench
  • Maggie Smith
  • Thandie Newton
  • Ian McKellan
  • Michael Caine (even if he can only play “Michael Caine”)
  • Alistair Sim
  • Eric Sykes
  • Keira Knightley (I can't bear her, but lots of directors seem to like casting her...)
  • Peter Sellers
  • Alec Guinness
  • Alan Rickman
  • Emma Thompson
Not to mention wonderful directors such as Anthony Minghella, Alfred Hitchcock, Danny Boyle, Ridley Scott and the one and only Charlie Chaplin.


I can't even begin to scrape the surface with this. Let's just say, that since the days of swinging London we have been a world force in the arena of music. Maybe there wouldn’t have been a Beatles without an Elvis, but where would we be without the Beatles?

  • The Beatles
  • Cliff Richard (don't laugh. He was our answer to Elvis, and he's had a number one hit in every decade since the 50s)
  • The Bee Gees
  • The Rolling Stones
  • Pink Floyd
  • The Kinks
  • Amy Winehouse
  • Natasha Bedingfield (she’s freaking huge in the US, despite the irritatingly trite lyrics. Oops, I’m supposed to be being nice….)
  • Joss Stone (loony, yes. Talented, also yes.)
  • David Bowie
  • The Noisettes
  • Jamie Liddell (I know, nobody has ever heard of him. I will change this.)
  • VV Brown (ditto)
  • T Rex
  • Some would also rate Oasis, Take That or even those little Spice girls again. 
I suppose I should cite some sportsmen too – David Beckham is good, and so is Lewis Hamilton. But until their salaries are based on how many times they actually win anything, I think I will leave them off my congratulatory list. I bet they feel really small now. 

Find on Spotify. You will like.
  • William Shakespeare 
  • Philip Larkin
  • C.S Lewis (can I include Irishmen? Well, I’m going to anyway.)
  • Oscar Wilde (see above)
  • Tolkien
  • Wordsworth
  • George Orwell
  • Roald Dahl
  • Ian Fleming (creator of James Bond, the blueprint for every action hero since)
  • JK Rowling
  • Mary Shelley
  • Charles Dickens (somebody out there must like him... Lord only knows why)
  • John Milton
  • Chaucer
  • Jane Austen
  • Ian McEwan
  • Philip Pullman
  • Agatha Christie
  • Lewis Carroll (he so wasn’t a paedophile.)
  • P.G.Wodehouse
  • The Bronte sisters (yes! all of them!)
  • Bram Stoker
  • A.A. Milne
  • Enid Blyton
  • Virginia Woolf
  • DH Lawrence
There are so many more and I haven’t mentioned any artists. What, do you want me to be glued to wikipedia all day? Here’s one more mini list:

All-round good, eductational chaps
  • Stephen Fry
  • Charles Darwin
  • The Attenboroughs
  • Stephen Hawking (don't be fooled by the accent he's one of us!)
  • Winston Churchill
  • Joanna Lumley
  • Isaac Newton
  • Boudica
  • Robert Winston
  • Margaret Thatcher (ooh, controversial! Love her or hate her, she became Prime Minister in 1979.... Up until 1944 it was legal to sack a female teacher if she got married. That’s a pretty fast turnaround.)
  • Desmond Morris
I also count it as no small achievement that we make decent chocolate here. America may be a world superpower, but nobody has taught them how to make confectionery, and I’ve always thought that Hersheys has a kind of “sicky” aftertaste. Say what you like about the disgusting chocolate in Australia, but at least it doesn’t taste like vomit. 

So, as a nation that has been so politically correct that it is frowned upon to even use the word “British.” today we are released. So right now, I want you to go to the window, Network-style, and yell: "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore."

Or you can just drink some more champagne and toast the most Disney-esque Royal wedding ever to make it into real life :-D

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