Old folk at lunch

Monday, December 5, 2005

When England was still English



"What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'

Hopeless old sentimentalist that I am, that coda to a great speech still moves me to tears. And I fear that Churchill was more prophetic than he could have realized. I think WW2 may indeed have been Britain's finest hour. At that time England was still English and Scotland was still Scottish. No more of course. England is now a mish-mash of the world -- including some very unsavoury bits of the world. And London, I am told, is now about 50% black.

I spent a year in Britain in 1977 and at that time most of England was still English. Brixton was already not a good place to go and Notting Hill was a bit dubious but there were plenty of London pubs etc that were still as English as they had ever been so I was able to get an impression of what England was like when it was still all English. And I understood and appreciated Englishness not only because of my ancestry but also because I was a bookworm as a kid and almost all the boys' books I read at that time were written and printed in England. The scene that those books portrayed was very alien to what I experienced in my own environment in tropical Australia but because I steeped myself in it, it became a second world that I grew up with. So when I did go to London I felt totally at home there.

So I do understand what the English have now lost and will almost certainly never regain. To have lost something as wonderful as an English England is a great loss indeed.

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