Monday, September 11, 2006


I've been thinking about Englishness, and what it means to me. Not yet come to any conclusions, of course; but I do have a few interim thoughts.

1) there's more than one "England," and they're often opposed to one another.

There's the England of the rural South-East, all chalk downs and nostalgia for the past, and the England of the future, all coffee-bars and glass-fronted offices.

There's the urban experience of the industrial North and the suburban experience.

There's the tough-as-nails landscape of the north and the seemingly softer South.

There's the England of the immigrant - from the Jews who've arrived here since they were allowed back in the country (18th Century?) to the England that the Polish plumber (yes I know that's a cliche) meets on his arrival in Stoke-on-Trent.

There's the England of the radical left - the Diggers, the Quakers, etc and the England of the Anglican Establishment.

There's the England of the empirical down to earth Movement poets and the England of the neo-Romantic imagination (from Dylan Thomas to Peter Redgrove and beyond.)

2.) Everybody's nostalgic for something. Nostalgia is where a lot of poetry comes from, but it can be dangerous if over-valorised.


Anonymous said...

Found your original blog on M R Peacocke in Google (which seems to have disappeared, or the search facility in this site isn't good, hence putting the comment here) and would like to borrow some of it for the Leicester Poetry Society website
She's coming to read there on Oct 13 2006.

Anonymous said...

Identity is odd.

In 1987 I went to a friend's house one Sunday wearing 501s, a white T and trainers - and crossing the road thought, What am I supposed to be? An American high school kid? It made me feel unreal to myself.

Over the next few years I learned to feel more English, through Rolling Stones and Happy Mondays records and an awareness of the northern mill-town hills around where I lived.

In 1991 I came back from a walk one Jan or Feb pm - through the kind of post-indusrial Lancashire landscape you mention, with the ruined 19th-c buildings along the rivers, and now the motorway noise in the distance.

I was wearing Joe Bloggs jeans this time, and Doc Marten shoes. I was toasting crumpets and brewing a mug of tea, and listening to a Billy Bragg tape (probably Workers' Playtime), and then it started to rain and I started grinning: This is, I thought, the most English moment of my life.