It was some months, half a year or so past, I saw in the Bulletin an article where Tony Blair, or one of his cabinet I think, said it was time “being English was re-defined...” Well, at the time I did not really take to that statement, sounding a bit ”big brotherish”, ie ”you will be re-defined...” and in the light of the recently released report The Future of Multi Ethnic Britain outlined and commented on by Ray Fleming in Saturday's Looking Around, it gave me reason to consider my nationality, and all things ”English.”

Firstly, I am of an age which in my youth one was brought up with probably different ideas and customs from many today. We were taught, and then it became as natural as breathing, to open doors for women, offer them one's seat in a crowded train or bus (especially the pretty ones) and the expression, “an English gentleman never raises his voice or (rolled) umbrella, except to hail a taxi”, was the order of the day.

Of course, so much has changed over the last 40 years, and what I now write may be considered by many as old fashioned and out-of-date. Maybe, but being polite and well mannered is not something that should be considered fashionable, and if discarded, what will replace it?

Some aspects of “Englishness” is admired by other nationalities. Here, in Spain, when I first visited Barcelona some 30 years past, I was amused to see the mega-stores named El Corte Ingles the English cut/style, which my Spanish friend told me was based on English tailoring/suits, considered to be the best.

Saville Row is slowly disappearing I believe, with only a few patrons such as Gordon Brown, recently reported to have spent £3'000 on a suit. Also, when a Spaniard arrives at my office punctually, or even a few minutes early for an appointment, when I comment on this, with a huge grin he says, “hora Ingles.” So we have some fame and have given something other than cricket to far flung points of the world, and at one time our roast beef was the most famous and sought after. Sadly, after the whole “mad-cow” business, it will probably never be the same.

But, when moving house recently I came across a menu from Simpsons-in-the-Strand (my favourite eating place in London) which my then (German) bride-to-be kept as a souvenir, particularly for the cartoon on the rear, which maybe Mr Editor you will have space to show.

It would be best not to show the full menu, it would only make many nostalgic for the best of British cuisine. All vegetables freshly cooked and everything at prices that really make one realise what inflation really is.

Being “English” is something I will always be and, some things apart, am proud of, and never when abroad feel I have to explain, feel inferior about, or excuse, and it is not something that can be acquired by just changing one's own nationality.

One is what one is, and should take pride in it, and the worst thing is when governments or groups try to change what has been bred into a nation over centuries.

Long may the differences in nationalities exist, it's the spice of life. All have something to give to others, but they should be allowed to do it in their own way and in their own time, to even attempt to force such issues will only lead to resentment and possibly conflict.

Graham Phillips
Palma

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