To all my readers in Great Britain

Judging from some of the reader comments I’ve been getting lately, I’ve developed a small following in the United Kingdom. The random insertion of the “u” into their notes – “my neighbour and I endeavour to honour the colourful flavour of your humourous behaviour,” read one recently — indicate to me that either they’ve spilled clotted cream into their laptops or that they come from the mother country, or probably both.

To show our appreciation for all that the English have contributed to our American culture, and to apologize for that whole Queen-touching thing last week, I’ve decided to kick off a new feature of my blog with a tip o’ the hat to the British. Much like I’ve done with my Friday “Website Review” installments, I’ll be periodically reviewing entire nations and giving them a rating based on several key categories.

First, let’s look at a little history of those splendid lands known as the British Isles. The nation we now know as “Eng-land” was first settled in prehistoric times by explorers from China’s Eng Dynasty, who made a seriously wrong turn trying to find Japan. Little is left from this early Asian influence except for an otherwise inexplicable love of weak tea. Over the course of centuries, the Engs migrated to the nation’s midlands, where they changed their name to the more Anglo-sounding “Druids” and made their living off a wild strain of wheat they baked into a hardened material called scones. Each year during the winter solstice, a particularly large scone would be baked to honor their pagan gods, and these were later assembled into what we today call Sconehenge.

The Romans showed up to conquer the parts of the country they could find in the fog not long after the birth of Christ. It would be another millennium before the isles would again be invaded, this time by an army from Normandy under the leadership of William the Conqueror, who like the Engs would leave little lasting evidence of a Normal culture. (William did begin a long tradition of famous Britons who adopted “the” into their names, as later shown by a long line of kings – Edward the First, Richard the Lion-Hearted – as well as infamous murderer Jack the Ripper and glam rockers Mott the Hoople). A few hundred years later, the first recorded pact between a monarch and his people, and between the people and their then-unstable geology, was written and published as the “Magma Carta.” No longer would power flow unchecked from the king, and no longer would lava flow unchecked from British volcanoes.

As the Renaissance flowered across Europe, England too saw a spike in its cultural output. The language’s greatest writer, William Shakespeare, emerged at this time, producing great theatre, sonnets, poetry, screenplays, haiku and a blog that was totally off the hook. His most famous work, Romeo and Juliet (which roughly translates from the Middle English as “Fast and Furious”), has everywhere inspired what he described as “two young lovers with nothing better to do/than sit around the house, get high and watch the tube.” This same atmosphere also saw one of the rare early examples of women in a leadership role as Queen Elizabeth I ruled the realm, in a path made possible by her father, Henry VIII, who had been known instead for putting women on a pedestal, and then cutting their heads off.

Through various military victories around the globe that in retrospect seem hard to believe, the British Empire ascended to the point where the sun never set on it. From Australia to India to Africa and the Americas, viceroys and governors ruled with a keen understanding of what it would take to foment revolution among the locals. We Americans, for example, used a ragtag army of tea-crazed colonists to kick royal British butts off the continent, at least till 1812 when they returned to burn down the White House, which we didn’t care about anyway because James Madison was living there, and nobody liked him, even though his wife Dolly made some great snack cakes, including her Zingers which are way better than any scones.

The “stiff upper lip” of the dour Brits was at its tautest when Germany swept through Europe during World War II and threatened the very shores of England. Seeing their island home under the peril of imminent invasion, citizens of London and elsewhere came together to resist almost nightly fire-bombings in truly heroic fashion. The Nazis were finally pushed back to the continent in what Winston Churchill called Britain’s “finest hour.” (Unfortunately, the war lasted over five years, so the hour was helpful but a little longer would’ve been nice.)

When, by the late twentieth century, the British couldn’t even hang onto the Bahamas, it was obvious the days of empire were over.

Today, Britain flourishes in a more understated manner as the cultural motherland of billions of English-speakers around the world. Modern maps refer to England, Scotland and Wales comprising what we call Britain; if you add in Northern Ireland you then have the United Kingdom, and then throw in Ireland and it’s the British Isles. Plenty confusing, certainly, yet no more so than why it’s still referred to as “Great” Britain. It’s definitely a “Very, Very Good” Britain but the use of a more proud adjective seems a little presumptuous at this stage in history.

I’ve actually been to Britain twice and so would like to offer a few personal impressions. My first trip was in 2003 and was a very brief one. I visited a lovely little traditional village called Gatwick that met all my expectations of what the country life was like: small shops selling hot drinks, newspapers and souvenir umbrellas, lining a narrow street filled with the bustle of Englishmen carrying their wares to market in dark suitcases or loudly beeping mini-trolleys. Every now and then a town crier would announce where those arriving and departing the lovely little settlement were from, and groups of townsfolk would gather in open-air pubs with evocative names like Gate 24A or the Business Class Sky Lounge.

A few years later, I got to spend a whole week in London as part of a business trip. I arrived on a Saturday morning at the St. Gregory Hotel on Shoreditch High Road, just up from Bishopsgate and the heart of the financial district, confusingly called the City. I spent Sunday on a whirlwind sightseeing bus tour, cramming Big Ben, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, St. Paul’s Cathedral and a thousand years of history into about five hours. I did “hop off” at Buckingham Palace to see the Changing of the Guard, which struck me as an overhyped shift change with all the majesty of the Punching of the Timeclock that happens every day in my office. I tried to ride the Eye, an eyesore of a ferris wheel that got left on the Thames by a bankrupt traveling carnival, but it was broken. I had to work non-stop the rest of the week and so did not get a chance to explore outside the city. But I heard that areas such as Essex, Sussex, Rufsex and Nosex were positively lovely, as were Stratford-upon-Avon, Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, though all I got to experience was Howard-on-Margaret, banging the headboard in the hotel room next to mine.

All in all, I’d rate Britain as an undeniable member of the First World of nations, a warm and caring long-time companion of the U.S., a loyal ally of freedom-loving peoples everywhere and a wonderful place to view as the backdrop to a movie. On a scale of one to ten ampersands (which I chose because it’s the keyboard character that most resembles the Isle), I’d rate Britain:

&&&&&&&& (eight ampersands)

 

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15 Responses to “To all my readers in Great Britain”

  1. therealmotherlode Says:

    Davis…..you’re becoming a habit! (Like I need another place to check in with every morning!)

    Keep up the laughs….

  2. heath Says:

    Funny, sir! Have added your blog to our blogroll over at Open Graffeti.

  3. heath Says:

    Still laughing and sniclering, and this with a sore throat…

  4. heath Says:

    Snickering, that is — typo caused by eyes squeezed shut due to over-laughing and snickering.

  5. Ina Says:

    This is a very nice posting. There is a lot of sex in GB if I get it right. Still most people that come visit here, are from the Nosex area by the looks of it.

  6. Mahendra Says:

    Ha ha ha! You sure did give me another laugh for the day…keep up the good writing, Davis.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  7. alantru Says:

    This is great. Now I’m learning stuff here!

  8. Helen Says:

    i was just in london this past february so this post is awesome.

    the english do like to breed a lot. i think they are one of the most open cultures to interracial marriages or perhaps just interracial sex? lol

    😉

  9. zoekathryn Says:

    you kill me. i check your blog everyday, and usually end up coming very close to taking a digger off my chair. your wicked funny. oh goodness, i think i may have given away that im from NEW england. much bettah.

  10. tychy Says:

    You forgot to mention that Britain is now a third world country – most of it worse than Africa – and that it is the national equivalent of the Rolling Stones, who just go blindly on and on and on without any dignity at all.

    Man, your writing is really fantastic. What coffee are you drinking?

  11. bethsciallo Says:

    NOW I understand Stonehenge! And to think I’ve lived here all these years. You need a wee visit ta Scotland, laddie, and dinnie fas yer’sel wih the English big toon.

    That’s about all the Glasweegen I can wrangle at this late hour –
    Thanks for the smile.

  12. stinginthetail Says:

    loved this 🙂 i lived in the UK for 16 years or so – and it all made perfect sense to me – i giggled my way through

    oh – but let’s not perpetuate the myth that the magna carta (magma carta, lol!) was anything more than an agreement forced on the king by the barons, that said he would no longer tax them so hard – nothing to do with the common people. The UK still has no actual bill of rights for its citizens – here in oz, we have the right to cross state borders without hindrance – and that’s it, lol.

  13. InActionMan IAM Says:

    A week is not enough, especially as you spent six days of it working. Bill Bryson did not write ‘Notes from a Small Island’ from the top of a tourist bus, and Davis W. must tell his employers that he needs to some a few months travelling around the old world to do some important field research.
    However, my own employers seem reluctant to send me anywhere. Odd, isn’t it?

  14. goodbadandugly2 Says:

    This is funny. But isn’t it cool how through blogland we can meet all SORTS of people 🙂

  15. determinednspoken Says:

    nice blog! It’s always awesome to hear from around the world, isn’t it?? 🙂

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