A few weeks ago, Toque invited me to join a new Facebook group called What England Means to Me, and to contribute to a new website of the same name. It's being billed as a "Domesday Book of the mind for England at the beginning of the 21st century" aimed at defining the oft-debated yet elusive notion of Englishness. My contribution will appear on the site shortly, but I thought I would also reproduce it here. It's not the usual kind of stuff you will find on this blog, but it does sum up, as best I can, how I feel about my beloved country.
England is the land of my birth, and the land where I hope to end my days. The land of my fathers and mothers, and the land where I too will raise my children. The land from which I have sometimes travelled far, yet always longed to return to whenever I have left its shores. The land where I have enjoyed all my happiest moments, from the childhood summers in Sussex by the sea, to the Lakeland mountain walking holidays of the middle years. The land of music as varied yet as quintessentially English as Elgar and Vaughan Williams, Genesis and The Smiths. A land of beer drinkers and pub culture, of bar-room camaraderie and foaming pints beside roaring log fires. A land of temperate sunshine and richly varying seasons whose weather is reflected in its politics, free from harsh extremes. A land rich in history, symbolised by the continuity of a royal line stretching back fifteen centuries, and by the more ordinary human stories which bear out the truth of TS Eliot’s beautiful verse: “A people without history is not redeemed from time...History is now and England.” A land which people have fought and died to save, and a land which, in my grandparents’ generation, stood alone against the most atrocious tyranny the world has ever seen. A land where the words of its greatest leader Winston Churchill forever bear witness to its indomitable spirit: “We will defend our island, whatever the cost may be...we will never surrender.”
I hope to dwell in this land all my days and enjoy its safe pasture, and to bring up my children to love it as I have done.