Saturday, 14 July 2012

Bastille Day

When yesterday I quoted the Red Queen I had quite overlooked the fact that today is Bastille Day.  OK, so that is perhaps of marginal interest to anybody outside la belle France, but it did start me musing as I stumbled around the park this morning hoping that the exercise would loosen up the knees.

The first thing to cross my mind was that I have received an electricity bill for our house in France.  Nothing very unusual in that as they are sent out every couple of months.  This one is for less than £20.  But I have to pay the best part of a pound to post the payment back to them.  I really must set up a direct debit, much as I dislike the wretched things, as that would save me quite a bit during the course of a year.

Somehow the thought processes led me to muse on national characteristic.  And then, is there any one song the words of which display or define the characteristics of a nation?  I have to admit that I was unable to think of one for the French, the Germans, the Japanese...  indeed any other then the English!  For us, I could not help but light on a song from the First World War, Fred Karno's Army.

We are Fred Karno's army,
The ragtime infantry.
We cannot fight, we cannot shoot,
No bloody use are we;
But when we get to Berlin
The Kaiser he will say,
"Hoch! Hoch! Mein Gott!
What a jolly fine lot

Are the ragtime infantry."
So just what English charateristics are displayed in those words?  Well, for a start there is self-deprecation.  We English do seem to have a tendency to describe ourselves as less successful or less capable than we really are.  But despite the self-deprecation, there is a quiet confidence, a dogged determination.  Note that the soldiers sang "when we gate to Berlin"; "when", not "if".

There is a lot said about the failings of the younger generations and how they are not the men their fathers or grandfathers were.  Personally, I think that is a load of tommyrot.  If the call ever came, the present younger generations would react in exactly the same way as their forebears.  They are English when all said and done.


I took this picture when waiting at traffic lights the other evening.  It is not the most attractive view of Brighton, granted, but there are a number of features of passing interest.  The architect behind the construction of St Peter's church was Sir Charles Barry, who was also responsible for the rebuilding of the Houses of Parliament.  The nearer pub on the right, the North Star, is owned by Shepherd Neame, England's oldest brewery.  My 6x great grandmother was Deborah Shepherd and back in the 18th century she lent her nephew £3000 to start the business.

No comments: