A love letter to Britain: My relationship with Britain is a long a complicated one. Similar to that of an abusive relationship, as much as you want to leave and know you probably should there's a familiarity, a complex love and stubborn hope pulling me back.
Me and Matt have been thinking about moving abroad in recent years but there's something in both of us that holds us back. I've also come to the end of my tether with preachy 'self help' books telling you to sack in your 9-5 job 'break the wheel' and move to a remote haven. So I've decided to try and come terms with Britain and all its flaws. I'm starting with a 'pro's' list of all of my favourite things about this troublesome little island.
There are many, many things I hate about this country (thought I best get this out the way first before moving onto more positive pastures). I have always felt deeply ashamed of our countries conquering history. We have probably caused more bloodshed per square meterage than any other country. I have spent many nights wishing away my British heritage and many days apologising on behalf of it. But it also grew 95% of the people I love the most in the world, so it must have done some things right. Right?
DISCLOSURE *This is my completely biased and un-researched opinion please don't sue me thank you and good day*
The British Countryside
The lush green meadows of the south. The rolling hills of the Peak District. The dramatic peaks of the Lake District. The bleach white cliffs of the coasts. The moss. The moorland. The limestone. The grit-stone. The heather. Ohh the heather!! There is nothing in the world quite like our countryside. There is a certain serenity, sincerity and subtlety which soothes you to your core. Nothing speaks to my soul more than our landscape. It's legacy and existence is so much greater than our fatuous ideas of self. And when we inevitably ruin this earth, our landscapes/nature will live on and prosper and this fills me with much peace.
We have four of them, and I love them all completely in their own special way.
I'm starting with Autumn because, ever since it was the start of a new school year, it feels like the true beginning of the year and a fresh start. So my year in seasons always starts in Autumn. I have never been able to shake the feeling of excitement I get when the leaves start to fall and the countryside turns orange. I think Autumn is a season for deep soles. It is my favourite season and each year I forget it's magic and it sweeps me off my feet and into a million daydreams as if I had never experienced an Autumn before. I can't pinpoint why this is, perhaps it's that it is a time for reflection. The calm after the hectic, pressurised summer just gone. The Ben Howard playlists, the bonfires, the crunching leaves, and in the words of Van Morrison the golden autumn days. Also as a bit of an agoraphobic, the end of summer relieves the guilt of being inside too much. I can ease myself into my winter hibernation full of vitamin D from the summer just gone.
Winter follows. My relationship with winter is not so straight forward. Things I love: cosy nights in, hot soups, roast dinners, (a few gallons of) red wine, baileys, wood fires, candles, sparkly things, Dad doing up our Christmas tree in the most hap-dash and completely Moore way, daily baths, LOTR/GOT/HP marathons, wrapping up warm and spending time with family and friends at Christmas. Things I don't love: the deep depression that has enveloped me each January/February for the last 5 years.
But soon enough Spring comes to the rescue. (Usually helped by an Easter spent with family exploring the countryside). As if it was planned! I'm not religious but someone knew what they were up to when our seasons were formed. Spring is my second favourite season, for the simple reason it brings hope. Each Snowdrop and Daffodil bring a whisper of the flourishing summer to come and with them a loving, reassuring hand on the shoulder. It is going to be ok. You can do this. You're going to be just fine. Every sunny day in Spring feels like a divine gift, one of which I devour greedily.
And finally Summer. I leave summer until last because it is the most essential season of all. Although it's not the most poetic season, I won't deny it's essential. The resetting of the timer. The hot summer days. The hazy summer nights. The humid air. The excitement. Cold beers. Ice lollies. Swimming. Beaches. Dancing. Exploring. Friends. Laughter. Happiness. Summer goes by too quickly yet lasts forever at the same time. I couldn't have 4 seasons of summer, one is most definitely enough but it is the perfect indulgent dessert to a beautifully balanced meal.
The seasons are so much a part of me I think I would be seriously out of wack without them. So seasons, thank you for keeping me centered in a yearly routine and for providing me with a narrative to live each year by.
The same reason I fell completely in love with my boyfriend. The dry, self deprecating silliness that is so unique to our country. With a few exceptions all of my favourite comedians are British. Bob Mortimer, David Mitchell, James Acaster, Peter Kay, Dawn French, Steve Coogan, Tim Key, Stephen Merchant ect. I feel lucky to have such a close circle of witty friends around me and I don't think I could reside in a country where my wit wasn't understood or reciprocated.
This is a bit of a controversial one but it's going in anyway. I'm sorry to all of the countries I have been to and found your demeanor brash and at times rude. I know that whole countries are not polite or rude and its on a person by person basis. We have plenty of rude people trust me. Probably some of the rudest. However we also have some of the kindest, most caring and beautiful souls I've ever encountered. Things I don't like in other countries that I take for granted not being too much of an issue in my own:
- Staring. In some of the places I've been people stare at your like they have simply never seen another human before. As a person quite high on the anxiety scale I find this very unsettling.
- Sexual objectification. This does also happen in the UK but it is more rare, you don't get a hollering every single time you step out of the door.
- Barging. Ok this definitely does happen in the UK but if there's one thing us Brits love - it's a queue so rough barging can usually be avoided.
Although our history isn't for the most part a pretty one or one to be particularly proud of I am thankful for the stories of the millions who came before us. The heroes that paved the way for science, democracy, justice, peace treaty's, women's rights, literature, travel, art, design, architecture and fashion.
An incredible book I read recently called The Lightless Sky by Gulwali Passarlay does an excellent job of highlighting the horrific, deadly and simply incomprehensible plight to get to our country. And then horrendous way we treat asylum seekers and immigrants in Tory Britain. We had a history of welcoming people into our country. Alas Theresa May put a stop to that. Now our country is not only a hostile environment for people seeking refuge in our country, residents who were invited here are being threatened with deportation. And if that wasn't enough, they have been made into the scapegoat for the failings of the government. As a consequence of many being unrepresented by the few in power, an individualistic culture has formed. Out of anger at being left behind and pushed to the margins of society they look for someone to blame. It's a tale is as old as time, Immigrants are blamed. It is on my list because immigrants are what I love about our country. And I'm proud that we have them, I'm proud our country has been built with their help and I don't want them to go. And I want them to know they are welcome, always. And I want them to know that the prejudice that exists is a direct result of our societies failings and of our failings as humans.
This is, of course a very sore subject a the moment. Britain wouldn't be the place it is today without the European Union. It was our biggest strength and one of our greatest triumphs to date, so needless to say I am deeply saddened that we will no longer stand with our European brothers and sisters. That said I am still counting it in my list as it is such a huge part of my British upbringing, and we do still have it on our doorstep (even if the doormat now reads 'PLEASE FUCK OFF'.) I am so in love with you Europe. So many of my happiest memories are in you, you have a beauty beyond words and whatever I write here will never be able to explain each countries allure so I won't try. I'll just say that I hope I get to explore your history, culture, cuisine and landscapes until my body and/or mind fails me.
So Britain, I love you. I love you for all these reasons, and writing them down has helped to affirm our bond.