What England means to me?…
It’s a big question; but is not a hard one to answer.
One word “Everything”
To this baby boomer, England is the big banana, numero uno, Chairman of the Board and the head honcho all rolled into one. Wherever I am, England is all around me, in my dna, four dimensional, omnipresent and all pervasive. Now into my fifties, it’s a super-emotional bond – “Brand England” is hard-wired into my heart and in my soul, right next to my wife, my kids, Led Zeppelin and my football team.
Thirty years ago, when England was conveniently buried under a British ident, I might have said England meant cricket, curly sandwiches, stewed tea, queuing for Boxing Day bargains, and moaning about the weather. Not any more. For to describe it thus is to insult the most creative and innovative country the world has ever seen. And it took a small paperback book written by a genius of a University Don to make me realise the error of my ways. “”The Making of the English Landscape” by W.G. Hoskins is a towering tome – an inspiration to anyone interested in the landscape of England – and how it got to be the way it is now..
Hoskins knew more about the topography of England than anyone else. Read his books and you too can look at and understand the country you live in. I did – and realised that the tatty little lane in Warrington, the rat run I drove down every day to go to work was actually Saxon in origin – and was likely to be over 1,500 years old. Aside from the historical interest, he explained that the landscape of England is a sculptured testament to a nation’s single-minded obsession with progress and ingenuity. The scree at the bottom of the Langdale Pikes in Cumbria is actually rejected shards from a stone-age axe factory. The miracle that is Salisbury Cathedral. Not just the colossal construct of it, but the fact that it has not yet fallen down despite the fact that it is built on a boggy water meadow and has foundations just 4 feet deep. That grassy mound in a Midlands field was once father of the industrial revolution, Abraham Darby’s first workshop. That wide lane in North Yorkshire is a medieval drove road, specially made to get sheep to market – and to make the local monastery hugely rich in the process. The distant abandoned pit-head was part of the machinery for retrieving one of the trinity of raw materials, coal, charcoal and iron ore – the stuff which fuelled the world’s first industrial revolution. The orb silhouetted against the Sellafield skyline is Calder Hall, the world’s first nuclear power station.
That geographic imprint, the work of countless generations, is evident all over the landscape of England. It’s a multifaceted mosaic of epic proportions. An unsurpassed work of art – honed, manicured and managed. A synergy of form and function, every single acre, every single square yard, each an individual tessera of history, a micro-monument to a nation’s tradition, culture, ingenuity, endeavour and work ethic – all made fit for purpose by the toil of successive English people since the dawn of recorded time. That dedication to progress in every corner of the Kingdom, in every facet of human endeavour and over successive centuries, burst from our borders and impacted upon every other nation in the world.
To realise just how much England has defined the world we live in, take a look at the long, long list of English invention that affects everything we do, every single minute of the day. Our language has become the global tongue of choice, our culture from the Laws of Football to Shakespeare’s Hamlet has been absorbed and customised into virtually every country in the world – as has our parliamentary blueprint. Pretty much every country’s democratic charter is a clone of the daddy of them all – the Magna Carta. The world’s first document that formally sets out the rights of the individual was written, amended, agreed and sealed in 1215 – at Runnymede, England. And that document can now be viewed online – courtesy of Englishman Tim Berners Lee, the man who not only devised the world-wide-web – but then gave it to the people of the world, for free.
England, more than any other is the nation that singularly defines the phrase “punching above your weight”. To put it bluntly, England is, and always has been a land of invention – a nation of pure genius.
Yes, England, geographically the 97th largest country on the globe, the place which sits just behind Syria, Ecuador and Croatia in the size stakes has given the world some fantastic stuff.. As my wife would say, size isn’t everything – but ingenuity and ambition is – and England has both, in spades.
England has the patina of achievement, endeavour and ingenuity ingrained all over its ancient surface. Beneath is a 24 carat stamp of quality that other nations can only dream of – and enviously covet. England has been “creative central” of the globe for generations. While Italy and Germany have been nation states for little over 150 years, and the French regions eventually stopped squabbling in the 15th century, England had already been in existence for nearly a thousand years. While China and Persia can claim to have longer lineages, England, far from being brutalised into a nation by a megalomaniacal despot, sought nationhood through mutual co-operation, beneficial osmosis, willing integration and the imperative to repel invaders from less enlightened lands. (You know who you are!).
Napoleon famously dismissed the English as a nation of shopkeepers – he was wrong. The English are a nation of engineers – and as every lexicographer knows, the word “engineer” is not a person who works with engines – it’s a derivative from the latin “ingenium” – which means skill, talent, ingenuity.
And that just about sums it all up really.
Steve Garrett, NC member of the English Democrats, co founder of Justice for England and author of the pro English, ‘Waking Hereward‘ blog.