Thursday, 3 September 2009

There’ll always be an England . . . ?

From The Queen's Royal Lancers Website: Forever England

Goodbye to my England, So long my old friend
Your days are numbered, being brought to an end
To be Scottish, Irish or Welsh that's fine
But don't say you're English, that's way out of line.

The French and the Germans may call themselves such
So may Norwegians, the Swedes and the Dutch
You can say you are Russian or maybe a Dane
But don't say you're English ever again.

At Broadcasting House the word is taboo
In Brussels it's scrapped, in Parliament too
Even schools are affected, staff do as they're told
They must not teach children about England of old.

Writers like Shakespeare, Milton and Shaw
The pupils don't learn about them anymore
How about Agincourt, Hastings, Arnhem or Mons?
When England lost hosts of her very brave sons…

We are not Europeans, how can we be?
Europe is miles away over the sea
We're the English from England, let's all be proud
Stand up and be counted - Shout it out loud!

Let's tell our Government and Brussels too
We're proud of our heritage and the Red, White and Blue
Fly the flag of Saint George or the Union Jack
Let the world know - WE WANT OUR ENGLAND BACK !

Barry received this in an email yesterday and while it made both of us smile it gave us pause for thought. What has happened to our English identity? It's true that we don't have an identifying costume like the Scots, Irish and Welsh (or the Dutch, French, Swiss, Native Americans, Maasai).
So, on England's national day, we don't see colourful national dress because we haven't got one. We could all dress as Morris men, I suppose, or don bowler hat, striped trousers and carry a brolly or impersonate red-headed Elizabeth I or Boudicca (formerly known as Boadicea)
Our patron saint is St George and his day is April 23rd, the day of his death and also the date of death of William Shakespeare. We don't celebrate St George's Day, though it is a provincial government holiday in Newfoundland, and the people of Albania and Kosovo observe it with rituals and religious services. In fact we don't seem to celebrate our Englishness much at all. The greatest regular outflowings of national pride are to be seen – and heard - at the Last Night of the Proms or at cricket matches when the Barmy Army comes into its own.
England's sense of nation is slowly disappearing, I fear, and now we are no longer able to answer 'English' in the boxes on forms that ask for nationality it can only be a matter of time before England becomes a country of the past. In many senses it already is – we have an archaic legal system, little or no manufacturing industry, an anachronistic Royal Family, we have exported our expertise and allowed it to be developed by other nations. I like being British but I also want to proclaim my Englishness. Great Britain comprises four nations but now only three of them can tick a box to demonstrate their clan. I want my grandchildren to be able to say that they are English as well as British and to acknowledge their German and Asian roots too.

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