What England Means to Me
In an article on G.K. Chesterton Patrick Wright wrote this of The Secret People:
Its “secret” Englishmen can be imagined as a group of Anglo-Saxon men seated in an unrenovated pub: slow but steadfast, unschooled but instinctively wise. These representatives of native common sense have sat there, silently drinking their undoubtedly real ale while the centuries have unfolded outside and sometimes come crashing in through the door. They have seen the comings and goings of sundry invaders, and gained nothing through a long succession of rulers - from Norman barons to the triumphant puritans of the civil war. Some may have put down their glasses and wandered off to fight with Nelson at Trafalgar (”dying like lions to keep ourselves in chains”). In general, however, these English natives have not responded enthusiastically to those who have tried to rally them to the defence of their own interests: “A few men talked of freedom, while England talked of ale.”
I may or may not be Anglo-Saxon but this is an idea of England that I can identify with. Those people do exist, I feel that I am one of them and I feel that I socialise with them down my local, and unlike Partrick Wright I don’t find that at all sinister. The traditional English pub is a bulwark against the modern age, the last place to sucumb to political correctness, and the place where the fabled ‘Middle England’ still foments its dreadful opinions, even in this age of blogging and phone-in shows.
The pub is still a place where tradition matters and old habits die hard, which is why you might recognise this extract from Frederick Hackwood’s Inns, Ales, and Drinking Customs of Old England (1910):
It is the English practice of all others that is characteristically stupid, in that it leads to unnecessary drinking; for a meeting of friends on the common ground of a public-house is invariably celebrated by their drinking together, and, as a rule, an end cannot be put to the celebration till each man has acquitted himself by paying for ‘drinks round’ - and therefore the larger the party the larger the number of drinks taken, and probably all of them except the first quite unnecessary, either for the quenching of thirst or the celebration of a happy meeting.
Hopefully this goes some way to explaining my essay on What England Means to Me.