|HERO! Brian Fairfield (aged 80) recently won the right to keep flying his |
national flag from a flagpole in his Hull garden after complaints from neighbours.
One evening in Bangkok, I met a bearded thirty-something Englishman. He was the husband of one of our primary school teachers. At first we hit it off but then he began to deride his home country, imagining that I would be like-minded and similarly prepared to "knock" the land of my birth.
"Hang on a minute," I said. "What are you talking about? I haven't run away from England. I love England. I love its people, its landscapes, its sense of humour, its inventiveness and creativity and I am proud of the role that England has played in the world - and continues to play.In short I am immensely proud to be English, proud of my country"
His jaw dropped. He was puzzled. It was as if he previously believed that all intelligent ex-pat "escapees" from our homeland are automatically cynical about and critical of Great Britain because of a basket of things like the immigration problem, crime, taxation, trade unionism, European red tape, the class system, "The Daily Mail", Tesco-isation, potholes in roads, litter, dog poo in parks, Michael Gove etc..
But as I said to him - all countries have their problems, their issues. You need to step back and see the positives instead of giving the negatives too much air time.
The other day I counted up how many countries I have visited in my life - it came to fifty. From Liechtenstein to Laos and from South Africa to Southern Ireland. I have been fortunate to see many wonderful things and have met many wonderful people but in the final analysis I can honestly say that the best country I have ever been in is England. It's where my ancestors were born, lived, worked and died. It's where football began - and golf and tennis and rugby. It's where steel was invented and modern industry was born. It's the land of Robin Hood, William Shakespeare, John Lennon, Florence Nightingale, Arthur Scargill, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Charles Dickens, Jessica Ennis, David Hockney, Geoff Boycott and Ken Wagstaff - the list is endless. And our countryside is so beautiful, criss-crossed as it is by an ancient network of pathways. And then there's our pubs - our wonderful pubs. No other country in the world has pubs like ours. And there's our language - our amazing English language that has become the most important, most useful, most incisive and most adaptable language in the world. How could I not be proud of England and grateful that I was born here?
So to all clever-dick ex-pats and knockers of England, I say "Shut up!" Don't smell the coffee but do strip away the cynicism and see the best features of our homeland. And while you are at it, please look in the mirror and see yourself standing there - for you are part of England, England bore you and when you knock our great country you are in effect knocking yourself. So stop it and shut up!