vendredi, août 04, 2006

Biggin' Up da England Posse!

The absurd but disturbing phenomenon of the "new English nationalism" gets well and truly bigged up in the latest issue of the absurd but disturbing Prospect magazine, whose several articles on the subject are absurdly but somewhat less disturbingly adorned with the above image.

It has long been understood that the Sceptr'd Isle's greatest defence against Johnny Foreigner (or as we now should say, Jock and Taffy Fellowsubject) could be found in the guerilla warfare to be conducted on any potential invader by the peculiar and not universally recognised qualities of the local food and drink. But alas! apart from the indomitable cuppa -the bulldog spirit made beverage-, it seems our national delicacies are dying out! (Personally I blame Brussels, and I'm not talking sprouts.) Thus, even before the repulsing of the tartan hordes from Westminster, setting up of an English National Parliament, withdrawal and if at all possible tectonic unmooring of the country from Europe, the naming-and-shaming of pediatricians, reintroduction of bear-baiting and witch-burning, and whatever else it may be the eccentric chappies (restons polis!) of this "new" movement are demanding, in these times when one can hardly move and much less breathe for the Scots, Welsh, Irish and other such asylum seekers cluttering up all the streets and breathing up all the air, may I be permitted to suggest that the real priority should in fact consist in the reintroduction onto the nation's plates of jugged hare, spotted dick, brawn, and junket. That'd see off the blighters! To quote Churchill's rousing words:

"We shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall force them to drink cups of weak Earl Grey with a cloud of milk at breakfast; eat Bath chaps, jugged hare and Bedfordshire clanger for lunch; suet pudding, lardy cake and calf’s foot jelly for dessert; we shall serve up three, four or even five helpings of the stuff; we shall never use olive oil!"

It's time for England, it's time for tea: fuel of Empire, proud brew on which the sun never set, mysterious essence of a people, measure of nationhood unabashed, lieu de mémoire, Icon of England! One is put in mind of the short early poem by which the German-born English poet (shocking as that may sound to some) Michael Hofmann prefaced his wonderful 1999 collection Approximately Nowhere:

Tea for My Father

I think of his characteristic way
of saying 'tea', with his teeth
bared and clenched in anticipation.
It is not his first language nor
his favourite drink, so there is
something exotic about both word and
thing. He asks for it several times
a day, in the morning and the afternoon
only. Mostly it is to help him work.
He likes it very strong, with cream,
in mugs, and sweetens it himself.
He puts it on the window-sill in front
of his table, and lets it grow cold.
Later on, I come and throw it out.

(1979)

Hofmann apparently spends much of his time out of the country, so perhaps I shouldn't have quoted this early poem of his (1979, année fatidique!) In these times of "Progressive (and let's face it, not-so-progressive) nationalism", with such a scurrilous treatment of this most venerable of national symbols, he might not be getting let back in again so soon. That cup of tea grown cold might be getting thrown in his direction. Or mine if I'm lucky...

1 Comments:

Blogger maarmie said...

No posts since August 4? What's up?

13 septembre, 2006 19:20  

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