9) St George’s Day. Americans mark July 4 with an orgy of national jubilation, barbecues, parades and fireworks. English people only realise it’s St George’s Day if they drive past a local watering hole called Bar Fusion and notice some bunting.
8) The national pastime of taking the mick/timewasting. Piltdown Man is a case in point. In 1912, even though it was the olden days and people were generally still very respectful and didn’t muck around much, some still-unknown prankster faked the fossilised remains of a previously unknown early human. It remained the greatest hoax of any kind until Katie Price claimed to write her own novels.
7) Dinosaurs. Southern England was the location for some of the earliest dinosaur fossil discoveries. Hugely diverse, frequently vicious and often unable to stand upright (see any town centre at a weekend), dinosaurs are as English as John Cleese doing some desperate tour to pay his alimony.
6) Smith’s Horror Bags. The only thing with more kudos than saying you saw the Stone Roses play at Spike Island in 1990 is saying that you saw the Stone Roses play Spike Island in 1990 while you were eating a Smith’s Horror Bag. As Johnnie Craig puts it in his blog I Have Grave News: “They came in several varieties, the rather self-explanatory Fangs (cheese & onion), Bones (salt & vinegar), Bats (“batburger”), Ribs (vampire vinegar), Claws (salt ‘n’ fingernail grit) and Skulls (Pedigree Chum and chive). The original TV ad was set in a typical horror castle’s dungeon and presented by a comedy vampire – and a right Count he was too. The later advert (below) for Bats (starring the great Frank Thornton as the vampire) was just as camp, if a lot less fun.”
PS If you don’t know where Spike Island is, it’s okay, no-one does.
5) The easy availability of alcohol. Fancy a drink in Canada? Good luck, mate, you’ll have to find a government-designated store, and you’ll probably die of the DTs before you manage it. Fancy a pick-me-up in Kansas, Mississippi or Tennessee? Pff, hope you did your homework and picked one of their wet counties before you went shopping for a sharpener.
But in England, now then, me old china, you old bastard, you only have to waltz in to a newsagent, where alcohol will outnumber news by roughly 5-1. And if you can’t find a newsagent, any supermarket, pub or park bench denizen can probably help you out. Sorted.
4) Major General John Dutton (Johnny) Frost. Best known for his involvement in the Battle of Arnhem during Operation Market Garden in 1944. I won’t lie, I am going to paste this bit off wikipedia: “Despite being surrounded by the II.SS-Panzerkorps and cut off from the rest of 1st Airborne, Frost led the incredible four-day battle in which the Germans rained artillery fire on to the Para's positions, and sent tanks and infantry into some of the most fierce fighting seen by either side.
"The Germans were astounded by the Paras' refusal to surrender and their continuous counterattacks. After a short truce on the third day, when 250 wounded were removed, the battle continued until the remaining paras had run out of ammunition. There were around one hundred Paras left."
3) Stone Henge. Okay, so they never finished it but it’s still awesome and every year on the Summer Solstice provides a way for jobless people to kill a few hours.
Anyway, in 1980, years before Guy Ritchie decided that being a gangster was a bit of ironic fun, Bob Hoskins scorched the big screen with his portrayal of embattled East End villain Harold Shand, who on one long good Friday finds his empire crumbling around him.
He can’t even go for a lunch at his own boozer without the place exploding. “Someone’s barbecued me fackin’ scampi!” as he puts it. Okay, he doesn’t but he’s probably thinking it. As my Auntie Jeanette said at the time: “It’s very violent.”
1) The NHS. Yes, time to bang on about the national health service again. But it’s worth banging on about. And the cliche holds true – you’ll face a long wait for your ingrowing toenail operation but if you shatter your skull in six places after driving your Peugeot 106 into a wall at 1.15am, you’ll be laughing all the way to A&E/physio. The moral is simple – make sure you stick to major, life-threatening accidents.Tweet