What is Englishness? A state of mind or something more..
As the rugby world cup unfolds and my previous weekend’s activities are considered I find myself thinking about Englishness and national identity. Perhaps not particularly pertinent to a website concentrating on a particular genre rooted elsewhere but I would argue it is. Most of today’s conflicts are rooted in nationalism and all the algorithms that are driving our online activities are seemingly stoking these fires of difference rather than celebrating both differences and communality.
My weekend involved two very special things. The first was actually attending an England cricket match wherein we won. Lords Cricket Ground, packed to the gunwales with all colours and creeds just interested in sharing an event. Everyone talking, everyone upbeat. The alcohol was flowing all day but not once did I witness issues or bad behaviour, other than someone spilling wine on themselves! Similarly the rugby, I see no cars with flags despite the thousands who follow the games, no fights in pubs, yet I know fans can be fanatical in their support. I clearly recall a writer from this parish having such a meltdown at England’s onfield play in a previous competition that when they lost he locked himself in a room for a couple of hours to have a strop.
The other brilliantly English thing I did was spend a morning on a barge, slowly drifting through the bucolic, early autumn countryside. Occasionally waving at others doing the same, looking at herons standing sentinel on the edge of their banks, putt, putt, putting through Victorian tunnels and just letting the 3mph pace seep into you encouraging you to consider your place in this world.
What’s this got to do with Englishness you ask, well I don’t conclusively know, as surely other people find pleasure in their national sports or leisure activities. But, there were moments, on both occasions wherein I felt myself proud to be part of something amorphous and benign; be it the community I was sharing these experiences with or the very activities themselves and the nearest I could get to describing it, was a feeling of Englishness. Not sure why. It’s a feeling I shall probably take when I walk the battlefields of Flanders once again next week. I’m not flag waving but I am recognising our common bond based on our history and geography.
Next week – more jokes.
This week I highly recommend the new Michele Stodart album Invitation as well as the new Will Johnson No Ordinary Crown both have been relentlessly played as well as featuring on the Willy Vlautin special broadcast following his coming number one in my article of the Top Ten Greatest Americana Artists from Sounds from beyond the Shed which also features Isreal Nash, Sparklehorse, Kara Jackson, Nina Anastasia, The National and more. As ever take what you want or need.