Dear Old England

After recent posts lamenting the decline of England a British reader has sweetly asked what I love about England. Here it is in no particular order:

Walking the South Downs Way with a black labrador. The Long Man of Wilmington. Visiting castles. Fawlty Towers. The North Cornwall Coastal path. Sausages. Mustard. Sticky Toffee Pudding. Custard. Flemish paintings in the National Gallery. Staying in farmhouse Bed and Breakfasts and eating lunch in country pubs. Little St Mary’s, Cambridge. A pint of English bitter. Dad’s Army. Really good fish and chips. Rievaulx Abbey. Choral Evensong at New College, Oxford. The River Thames. WH SMith. Westminster Cathedral. Christmas Cake, crackers, pudding and carols. St Ethedreda’s Ely Place. Canals and canalboats. The Church of St Mary and St Alphege, Bath. Roast potatoes. Downside Abbey. those gas water heaters they have over their bathtubs that sound like engines on airplanes. Glastonbury. Tea with old ladies. Brown Sauce. Squash (the game, not the drink) Anglo-Catholic Churches. Medium Dry Sherry. The Isle of Wight. Lawn Tennis. Tintern Abbey. The Bird and Baby, the Perch, the Turf and the Trout all in Oxford. St Mary Magdalene’s, Oxford. Old Libraries. Pusey House. Jaffa Cakes. Mesopotamia. North Oxford. Private Eye. Yaverland. BBC Radio 4. The Belles of St Trinian’s. Denis Thatcher. Christmas pantos. King’s College, Cambridge. Stonehenge. Charity shops. The Daily Telegraph. Gin and Tonic. pre-1985 Anglican vicars, Strawberries and cream. The Royle Family. Newman’s Rooms at the Birmingham Oratory. St Aloysius, Oxford. Croquet. Little Gidding. Hastings Sea front. East Coker. Blackpool. Quarr Abbey.

And what do I love about the English themselves? Tweed jackets and trousers that are too long. The suicidal tendencies of their old ladies on bicycles. That their lawyers wear wigs. The Queen’s squeaky voice. Public schoolboys in uniform. Their stiff upper lip. The blitz spirit. English barmy sense of humor. Their patience in queues. Their ability to sit on your lap on a crowded train and pretend nothing is wrong. Their women are frumpy. The way the men wear white button down dress shirts for sports. The way they ignore the Welsh. The ridiculousness of the Church of England. Their reluctance to enter the twentieth century. Their attachment to the ‘airing cupboard.’ Their fondness for mystery stories. Their appreciation for gardening. That they like to hike wearing shorts, sturdy shoes and a hat. That they maintain the footpaths. That they complain a lot. That their national game takes four days, and no one can explain what’s going on. That they treat language like a poem. That they like trains. They like a bargain. That they are suspicious of religious enthusiasm.

And which of the English do I love best? C.S.Lewis, J.R.R.Tolkien, Evelyn Waugh, T.S.Eliot, Edith Sitwell, Jane Austen, Barbara Pym, Alec Guiness, Jeremy Irons, Margaret Thatcher, Charles I, St Thomas More, George Herbert, St Etheldreda, John Donne, Richard Crashaw, Philip Larkin, Elizabeth Jennings, St Richard of Chichester, the Venerable Bede, Julian of Norwich, Dorothy Sayers, J.M.W.Turner, Henry VI, Samuel Palmer, the Wesleys, Cardinal Newman, William Blake, Christopher Smart, Emma Thompson, John Cleese, Edward Elgar, Tallis, Ronnie Knox, Byrd, John Betjeman, Judy Dench, Brian Blessed, Maggie Smith, Hugh Laurie, Les Dawson, G.K.Chesterton, Francis Kilvert, Parson Woodeforde, Hilaire Belloc…

…oh, and my wife.

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • kkollwitz

    Hey, my wife is from Canada, does that count?Anglophone Canada, that is.I imagine that in general, America regards England as her very proper mother, who isn’t sure she completely approves of of her eldest & rambunctious child.BTW, what were those two places Americans don’t know about….Heptarchy and Stirrup, I think.

  • Rob Fensom

    Glad you like the long man of Wilmington, I used to work the fields at the foot of it and graze cattle and sheep on it in my younger days. The Sussex Ox pub at Milton Street nearby was a favorite untill the tourists arrived.

  • Powder Keg

    Can’t forget GK and Belloc?

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    I well remember the Sussex Ox. I went there when I lived in Bexhill in the early 80s. it was nice then

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    whoops! Apologies to the Chesterbelloc

  • Anonymous

    I’d like to add the city of York and its magnificent Minster, Middleham Castle, King Arthur, Winston Churchill, Ashby-de-la-Zouche, Nottingham, Robin Hood, and my favourite King, Richard III to your list. Also my favourite Brit actors Robert Powell, Keith Michell (though he’s originally an Aussie, but has lived in the UK for about 60 yrs,), the late John Thaw, and Sir Roger Moore.

  • chimakuni

    Dad’s Army … but alas, you left out my favorite – Keeping Up Appearances…what a hoot – how how STIFF upper lip and utter nonsense about the British Life!I love the old country – truly I do – thanks for a trip down memory lane, Father!

  • BevansInc

    That’s a nice list – makes us feel jolly being British – you captured us well (you forgot our lovely unique teeth though hehe)- E

  • Anonymous

    Ahem!I feel at pains to point out, Roy Campbell (third on your list of people) was South African! He’s one of the few Saffas I can honestly feel really proud of.It seems the British and the Dutch both exported the greater part of their naked agression to South Africa (where they used it mostly against each other), and RC’s poetry embodies all the thumping power and glory of the bottom end of the Dark Continent. He became Catholic after seeing how Spanish clergy died in the civil war (he was a mercenary at the time). As a writer, he also caused no end of embarassment to the Bloomsbury Group, which is why he’s ignored today.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    You’re quite right. I’d forgotten that he was South African. Joseph Pearce and I are both great fans of Campbell.

  • Ttony

    Go on – you’ll do.The Royle Family: I’m from a Manchester council estate and when my mother died I had to go up and live in the house from when the death notice was published until when we had cleared the valuables out of the house.One evening, after a day of clearance, I was watching the Royle Family when my Aunty Ethel rang. By one of those bizarre coincidences, the first two or three things she said fitted perfectly as rejoinders to what Jim Royle was saying to Nana: it really cheered me up!!!And Les Dawson grew up three streets away from my Auntie Margaret – but they never knew each other! My wife bought me a Les Dawson DVD for Christmas and I put it on: my 17 and 14 year old had never heard of him but were transfixed!”In an attempt to solve the problem of overpopulation, Doctors have identified a foodstuff which reduces the sex drive in women by 80%. Wedding cake.”You’ll probably have to bin this!

  • Oliver Hayes

    And of course Downside Abbey, my beloved alma mater, not to mention the Birmingham Oratory, my parish…

  • On the side of the angels

    How can you admire Thatcher ? She’s not a devil-worshipper , she doesn’t need to be – Satan worships her!and how can you have ever been in England and fail to acknowledge out greatest invention ? One that defies the rest of the world with its pernicious addictive qualities , its beauty of form, the design worthy of Pugin or the Palace of versailles….of course I’m referrring to the jaffa cake

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    The Jaffa Cake! I forgot. It’s going on the list.I admire Margaret Thatcher because I admire people with great character and resolve.

  • Jeffrey Smith

    I may have to try this one myself.

  • Adrienne

    I’m a bit of a royalist myself. I love studying about the kings and queens of England. Who needs soap operas when you have the Catholic Church, the Bible and the Royals??….and, lets not forget their gorgeous gardens.

  • Rich Leonardi

    I haven’t laughed so hard in days. Thank you so much, Father. Although I’ve only visited England a handful of times, you’ve captured much of what I love about the place.

  • Joel Haubenreich

    I rather think T.S. Eliot should only half count, seeing as how he started out American.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Eliot was more English than the English

  • Jay Anderson

    Walsingham. I love that place.