Friday, April 14, 2006

The English

Patrolling Eastern England in a people carrier assessing buildings - houses, libraries, offices, sheds, anything - for the Royal Institute of British Architects awards, it is hard not to find oneself thinking 'whither England?' thoughts. The obvious answer is: towards a land of giant Tescos, smart sheds, business parks, gastro pubs, interminable roundabouts and, occasionally, a real place that doesn't look as though it arrived yesterday. Of course, the real places, if suitably pretty and rural, are all at least half inhabited by faintly unreal people. These people know they suffer from a reality deficit and so they seek to buy more reality in the form of cottages, wellingtons, wet dogs, local food, local characters and in the sacred ritual of "the walk". They seek, in short, England. There is something wrong here. You can legitimately, in Simon and Garfunkel's words, go to look for America because America remains incompletely found. But England was utterly found. Yet now we are looking for it. We lost England and can't find it anywhere. So what is this alien land patrolled by people carriers?

4 comments:

  1. Bryan Appleyard is right to conjure the image of Englishmen with a reality deficit seeking an England that has long ago been "utterly found." The problem is that the words "utterly found" are uneasily close to "exhausted". So it needs to be re-invented. (When a coal seam is "utterly found" the mine is closed.) How likely are Englishmen with a reality deficit to recognise what has been lost, still less imagine what might replace it? Meanwhile we are fed a bullshit England by David Dimbleby (Pictures of England) and Andrew Marr (royalty). Dead coal seams are more excitng. Wallace.

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