I wasn’t surprised to see during a recent survey, that Londoners consider them selves patriotic about their city first and foremost and about their country second and secondmost. It is also not surprising that it was our very own Evening Standard who happily pointed this out: http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-24018243-were-proud-londoners-first-then-british.do
I have to bear my colours here; I have never truly understood the point, or trusted the feeling, of patriotism about a country. I quite simply don’t get it, particularly in a country as diverse as this one, in which being English and hailing from Devon isn’t at all like being English and hailing from Lindisfarne. In short, it feels like I’m being played, as my Leeds grandmother would have said, for a giddy kipper. What is the point of patriotism? To lull me into a sense of national love, so that I would think little of being farmed into the nation’s army and then be killed for something that is worthwhile? I don’t buy that claptrap, children. Why should feeling English mean anything, and how could feeling English serve any kind of dutiful purpose? I fully understand my citizen’s charter. I understand that I have to go about my business in a law-abiding way, that I do not kill, rape or pillage, that I pay my taxes, that I display munificent humanity and generosity towards my fellow men and that occasionally I stand up for an old person on a bus. That is the contract. My feelings are too intensely private to ever come under the vague banner of “civic duty”. My feelings are my own, and if the British Nation was to enquire what they were regarding themselves, I’d tell them to bugger right off.
Anyway, the survey chimed very much with what I think. This isn’t one country. It’s about 7 different countries, possibly 10. This is a country of great diversions in the regions (diversions that will become more pronounced as the recession / depression /whatever the buggery bollocks it is continues to seep in and bite the British on the bum) and no one from London thinks they’ve got much in common with people in Peterborough, let alone the Cornish. I would say my religion is that I am a Londoner. I identify with the city. I haven’t seen most of the rest of the country, anyway, apart from that lost weekend in Devon with George Clooney (and I’m much too discreet to discuss that here) so what kind of an authority would I be on the rest of it? In this survey, Peter Stringfellow, that most classy of delectable Yorkshiremen said “I’m British if we go to war, but apart from that I’m a Londoner first.”
Oh, that’s all right then. So, if we engage ourselves in the Franco-Turkish Thong and Nipple Tassel Wars, we could be safe that Commander Stringfellow would be in charge of hostilities. But it raises an interesting point; a Sheffield native is no more or less a Londoner than you or me. London is a state of mind, and you don’t have to be born here to be one. We are magnaminous, and take converts. Just like the Liberal Synagogue. The survey showed that 53% of us are “very attached” to the City, whereas only44% of Londoners were “very attached” to England. This is the kind of statistic that has the retrogressive naysayers cradling their Daily Mails and weeping for a better England, and complaining that there is no sense of pride in the country. It doesn’t mean that of course. It means that most of us in London don’t go anywhere else and particularly don’t tend to leave our region that much so don’t really know what the rest of England is like. This, usually, has a lot to do with being descended from foreign stock, and feeling (aha – there’s that non-civic word again!) that the rest of England doesn’t really speak to us. This is more common than you think and basically goes on for centuries after arriving here.
So, here are, kids – a festive questionnaire. You may only work here, you may choose to shop here, you may have been born here and then made a rapid break for the Home Counties border, you may have relocated to Quebec, but the question to all of you is – how much of a Londoner are you?
a). It is 5.15pm on the Friday before Christmas and you are standing in the middle of Hamleys with several hundred hysterical adults and children. Do you:
- Make a calm beeline for the Wii and then head for that till at the back that you know will have a shorter queue.
- Worry about a terrorist attack, shout at the children and dream of getting home to a hot bath and a cold beer.
- Have an anxiety attack and faint, keeling over onto a six foot model of Paddington Bear.
b). Complete this sentence : “Cleopatra’s Needle is…..”
- A large stone edifice on the edge of the Thames that was stolen from the Egyptians.
- A casino run by Egyptians.
- An Egyptian-based sewing group that meets fortnightly
c) You are invited to a Devon manor house for Christmas. Do you:
- Break out into a cold sweat, threaten to vomit if taken beyond the orbit of the M25 and immediately say to the person who suggested it that they have gone “completely bonkers”.
- Worry about the roads / cows / pigs / farmers / killers that approach isolated manor houses in the night.
- Pack a pheasant, guns and your Duke of Windsor tweeds and look forward to pretending you are in an episode of Downton Abbey bossing proles and servants about. Hello your Lordship!
d). You are alone in Soho at 1am. A man with a broken jaw and one eye asks you if you have a light. Do you:
- Give him a light and then recognize him as the man you briefly lived with when you were 23 back when he had a full head of hair.
- Say “No” in your best Headmistress voice and feel smug that you don’t expose yourself to the nastiness of this city life too much.
- In Soho at 1am? Are you mad? I wouldn’t live to see morning. Some London guttersnipe would cosh me over the bonce with a hammer and rob me of my kidneys and sell them on Ebay. It’s LONDON, you know.
e). You need to get from Mayfair to Euston. Do you:
- Walk across Oxford Street, nip up Great Portland Street, wiggle up around New Cavendish Street and Warren Street and then dah daaah. You’ve arrived.
- Get the tube from Piccadilly Circus to Green Park, and then Green Park to Euston – which you hate.
- Get out the sat nav, panic that if you use it in broad daylight in the West End you will be mugged, weep, and then give up and get a taxi.
f). What is the difference between North London and South London?
- About a universe. We don’t go there and they don’t come here – and most Londoners assume you need a passport to travel from Westminster to Lambeth.
- About half a mile of river.
- Who cares. They’re just two foul urban stretches of decay populated by fools, students, halfwits and cockneys.
g). What’s the best thing about London?
- Arriving home at Heathrow and seeing a black cab
- The theatre and shops – although you sometimes tire of the expense
- The M1 heading north out of it
h). At lunchtime you find yourself in a Clerkenwell gastropub. Do you…
- Get drunk, order a steak, settle on a brown leather sofa and get cosy
- Get drunk, complain about the service and refuse to pay £10.50 for a hamburger
- Get drunk, get offensive, shout that this is a “trendy wine bar” and that there’s a place in Gloucestershire where you get better local produce at half the price, wipe the mud off your wellington boots on the carpet and get asked to leave the premises, please, madam.
i). What is the “Silicon Roundabout”?
- The area around Old Street famed for its silicon chip and software innovations performed by youngsters in uber-fashionable clothing.
- The junction of Harley and Wimpole Streets, famed for its plastic surgery consultation rooms.
- A record player.
j). At closing time in the local hostelry you are most likely to say….
- The best place to get a cab is outside the nearest 5 star hotel. Let’s walk that way and grab a drink on the way at a bar.
- Is there some sort of secret, terribly exciting strip club I can visit now I’m in town? Do they accept Amex?
- Collect your sheepdog from beside the open fire, pop your personal pewter mug on the mantelpiece and head out across the hills to your rural homestead.
k). What accent was Dick Van Dyke trying, and failing, to execute in the film of Mary Poppins?
- Cockney Lahndahn. Cor Blimey Guvnor, Strike a light etc
l). What was your last big social evening event?
- Shoreditch wine bar, rapidly followed by Smithfield restaurant and a cab ride home that you don’t entirely remember with someone called Richard who worked in IT.
- West End musical, post show supper at Joe Allen and a dash for the last train, all of which you thoroughly enjoyed.
- The Annual Countryside Alliance dinner dance – South West England branch – where you accidentally injured the Master of the local Hunt on the dancefloor with your enthusiastic dancing to “I’ve Got A Brand New Combine Harvester”.
m). What famous consulting detective lived in Baker Street?
- Sherlock Holmes
- Chap from Midsomer Murders
- What is Baker Street?
Mostly 1’s: You dapper, urban flibbertygibbert you. You are a Londoner; cool and collected in the face of Oxford Street madness and able to handle yourself on our dastardly, dirty city streets. 10/10. You know the best routes through the city and are comfortable in the trains underground. A bit like a rat. Make sure you don’t develop Woody Allen Syndrome, where you become so conditionned to the city you panic if someone suggests going anywhere else.
Mostly 2’s. You tart. Mostly you treat London as a buffet, nipping in for the fruitiest chunks and the best dips when the mood takes you. Most probably you’re a native Londoner who’s rippled out to the borders, venturing into the centre for vicarious London-like pleasures but returning to a outer suburb at twilight. The general consensus is you have the best of both worlds, but be wary of becoming too jaded about the city.
Mostly 3’s. What are you doing here? How did you even find this website? You think people who live in cities are all nutters. All of your shoes have mud caked on them. So do most of your relatives. It’s possible that when you wondered onto this ‘ere London Bluebird you thought Armageddon had come. Move away from the Blog. There is nothing for you here.
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