Life in England

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So what is Guy Fawkes night all about?

By |2017-01-06T11:16:46+00:00November 11th, 2008|Life in England|

So went the question punted my way by a Frenchman standing in front of a bonfire last Saturday night. How to answer? At school we're taught the 'official' version of the origins of the celebration, which recounts how a group of bad men plotted to blow up the houses of parliament but failed. However, even when you're only five years old - you have to ask what on earth the bonfire, effigy burning and fireworks are all about then? Indeed, there are many theories behind that one, as an Irish friend put to me once "It's all about burning Catholics". In Lewes in Surrey they also celebrate the 'glorious revolution' on Guy Fawkes night (when William of Orange invaded and sent the last Catholic heir to the English throne packing) by, amongst other things, burning effigies of Pope Paul V. So it would seem that there might be a modicum of truth in the whole anti-catholic thing? And it does seem that many Catholics, and Irish in particular, take offence at the very idea of Guy Fawkes night. But [...]

Is this really ‘news’ … ?

By |2017-01-06T11:16:46+00:00November 3rd, 2008|Life in England|

Every time I take a trip over to the UK I usually take the opportunity to bring myself up to speed with current affairs. After all, what we hear in France of Britain is usually little more than politics or a little bit of European social commentary. It says a lot about Britain then, when there is war in DR Congo, financial meltdown across the planet, bombings in the middle east and the US presidential election - that the lead story for the entire three days of my visit should be taken up with celebrity scandal. It was only recently that I noted the home nation's obsession with celebrity, but nothing demonstrated it more aptly than the events last week. Even the BBC were guilty of giving in to tabloid pressure and saturating their own broadcasts with 'giving the people what they want'. In a nutshell this is the story:Two celebrities are a bit rude to another celebrity on a national radio show. Insulted celebrity complains to radio channel, sparking off a media storm braying for the blood of [...]

The Biritsh Motto

By |2008-08-26T08:16:01+00:00August 26th, 2008|Life in England|

The French 'Devise' is well known to all those who have ever studied any aspect of French history. The three principles upon which the republic are founded are engraved into the very soul of the nation: liberté, égalité, fraternité (Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood). And these three principles are easy to see in action in everyday France: Freedom: The French will park wherever they like, let their dogs poop wherever they like and say whatever they like (which we British regard as quite simply rude!). Equality: Every Frenchman is born equal, more or less. i.e. there are no lords and ladies here. Brotherhood: How else would you explain French protectionism and the socialist model? The result is a country that has patriot citizens from the wind swept Brittany coast to the sun drenched Cote d'Azur, each and every man easily identifiable by his belief in the founding principles of republic. But what does Britain have? The Magna Carta. That's it. A crusty old document that says the King (of England) will mind his own business. Hardly a rallying point for the [...]

The problem with Britain…

By |2017-01-06T11:16:49+00:00July 11th, 2008|Life in England|

...is that there are many problems. Many of which are neatly encapsulated in my former home town of Frome in Somerset. With a population of around 25,000; it is not dissimilar to many other small towns up and down the country that together share many, yet quintessentially British, problems*. On the plus side - Frome is now hailed as a cultural gold-mine by publications such as The Times, partly because it has retained many of it's older buildings and therefore retained much of it's olde worlde charm. Surrounded too by some pretty villages, scenery and attractions also makes it's location hard to beat, certainly if you're after a break from the city. But for me that's where the positives end. The sad fact is that Frome has been mismanaged for decades. Rarely has anything been done, built or planned for the public good; residential property development, commercial interests and a general NIMBY attitude by those in a position to solve issues have perpetually taken precedence over the actual needs of the town. These are the things that upset me [...]