Sharon Ann Glenn

England alone is different, separate yet defining. It is a place of contradiction, a place for the best to meet, to decide, to govern, to rule, to defend, a place which often sets the standards that others follow. It is a place of pride and of strength, a place which frequently assumes that it must be heard and never ignored. That is what its former generations used to call England’s mission and England’s greatness. Coming from Northern Ireland, I find England means travelling without needing to travel far. It is a meeting of many cultures and traditions, all embracing and yet it can be also inward looking and bigoted. England means not only a fast city life but also the most beautiful countryside you will ever see. The glory of England is that it has some of the most impressive historic buildings and wealth in the world and yet the shame of England is that it has some of the worst slums, which house an existence and not life. It has a heart that beats for knowledge and learning for betterment, for opportunity and for celebration of achievement. This is the spirit which has meant that England (despite all the accusations of social conservatism) has remained a dynamic and inventive country. At the same time it also harbours a perverse pleasure in the weakness and failing of others and often in the failings its own people. This is the attitude which has given England the reputation for being perfidious as well as for being philistine. England is all this – a contradiction which aligns it as close as a heart beat with human experience in all its variety, for good and ill. And (here is yet another contradiction) it is all this without in any way diminishing the distinctiveness of English ways of living.

Sharon Ann Glenn is an occupational therapist