In search of an identity – one walk, one dream

2015-07-28 11.41.18

One summer’s day..

The Scots, Welsh and Irish all have, it is said, discernible identities. Characteristics that those claiming allegiance see as a common thread. Not the English. Too embarrassed by the legacy of empire to show too much of ourselves, I suppose.

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.. in a land not that far away…

When asked what they think our identity means, people are either serious to the point of the stodgy: upholders of democracy and the rule of law (like we have a monopoly on that, leaving asides whether it is true) or silly: tea drinkers and Morris Men. As an Englishman, I need a bit more than Tetley’s finest and hanky-waving lessons.

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… a dream was dreamt; a small boy…

Someone said we have too much history to pick out one characteristic which probably emphasises one thing often said about the English. That we are arrogant. Which is true but no more true than everyone else frankly. And arrogance is up there with my least favourite traits in people, alongside bigotry and walking slowly: discrimination and dawdling, two crimes against humanity.

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… in amongst sun dappled trees…

So what is there that we might cling to? Well, we have a lot of food-based references to start with (with which to start – smug grammarians, that might be a characteristic?): as English as fish and chips, scones and cream, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Or our much vaunted sense of humour. Mind you claiming ours is better than others is rather arrogant too. And I’m always having to explain my jokes so I probably fail that test.

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… with his loyal dog by his side…

Maybe it’s in the image: the Scots have their tweed and their kilts and what have you; the Welsh have their choirs and their daffodils; the Irish their shamrocks and green everythings. Us? John Bull and Winston Churchill which is all a touch bellicose in truth. We are a warlike people, let’s face it. We’re always going off somewhere to start or finish a war, even (especially) when we have no right or reason to.

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… he looked north and imagined his friend, his most loyal friend…

We need something better, people and I think I’ve found it. We need a role model, someone who embodies the essence of Englishness: our love of simple food; our diffidence and lack of certainty about ourselves and our place in the world; our loyalty and simple-minded belief that all can be all right with the world with a little effort; our ability to make people laugh at us and with us at the same time.

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…coming to play. He was filled with stories… He sat and he wrote..

In the end this character, a chubby, slightly anxious, philosophical chap (‘sometimes I sit and think’) was the obvious candidate.

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…his mind’s eye misting with the joy of his vision

This revelation came to me, as so much does, on a walk with friends, in the Ashdown Forest in Sussex. I’ve populated this post with some of the pictures I took. Like this one of my companions, Dog, of course included. In the end I didn’t have to think very hard (‘and sometimes I just sit’)

2015-07-28 10.47.33

And the moving pen, having written the stories, was laid to rest as he set them free to show the world there was good that comes from this green and often pleasant land.

AA Milne wrote about Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh hereabouts, deep in the Sussex countryside. We stopped at this memorial stone high on the escarpment, in a  small grove of trees.

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ah….

‘… so captured the magic… and gave it to the world’

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the most archetypical of Englishmen, the  perfect role model for our mad manic 21st Century.

WINNIE THE POOH

If only we could be a little more Pooh, then everyone would understand what it means to be English. As long as there was honey for tea.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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54 Responses to In search of an identity – one walk, one dream

  1. cjpeilow says:

    As an Englishman living abroad for the past two years I have plenty of strong opinions on this, Geoff. Happy to share them with you on my return.. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. cjpeilow says:

    As an Englishman living abroad for the past two years I have plenty of strong opinions on this one, Geoff. Happy to share them with you on my return.. 🙂

    Like

  3. lbeth1950 says:

    Pooh was a great idea!

    Like

  4. jan says:

    Such lovely green countryside! I’m here in California which is burning down and brown.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. davidprosser says:

    Of course, and where else could Pooh Sticks have been invented?
    Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jools says:

    Funny… All the way down your post, I was thinking… Rupert Bear! I wasn’t that far wrong 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I like to look at this from another direction. What the Scots, Welsh and Irish have is not so much identity as stereotypes. The English, much like our young cousins, the Americans and Australians, are a mish-mash of races, from the Roman, Viking and Norman invasions to the more recent, more peaceful yet ongoing arrivals from the east and south. We cannot be pigeon-holed or stereotyped, and perhaps that is our national characteristic.
    If not, I’m good with Pooh Bear.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I was worried about the Brits losing our identity and wrote a bit of a clumsy post about it! You have said it perfectly here Geoff. Good old Pooh, I can relate to him wonderfully. Amongst other things. we share a constant ‘rumbly in our tumbly.’

    Liked by 1 person

  9. restlessjo says:

    Somewhere in an attic I must still have a Rupert annual or two! But I definitely have a compendium of Pooh. All’s well that ends well 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. willowdot21 says:

    and maybe a little more Eeyore too

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Sacha Black says:

    ‘Walking slowly’ snigger. What if you have short legs? Or polio?? I have short legs. Proper midget ones.

    Can I add patronising and inefficient to your list. Two things that really REALLY get my goat.

    As for characteristics we queue too much and too many Brits are prudish.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Yvonne says:

    The idea of any nation having a cohesive identity has always struck me as bizarre, but as far as identities go Winnie the Pooh is indeed a good role model to follow. I’m not English but I have found his wisdom to be profound. And Eeyore’s too…

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Sherri says:

    Of course! I should have guessed. I tried to drench my children in all things English when we lived in California so that they would always know their roots. Little did I know we would oneday be living back here, and indeed my two boys in Sussex… So yes, Winnie The Pooh and all his gang, Peter Rabbit and his ilk, Mole, Ratty and Badger in willows and woodland, all there, there they were. Not forgetting the honey of course. Wonderful post Geoff!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Sherri says:

    Left you a comment Geoff, but it’s not showing up…hope you got it!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Ali Isaac says:

    Looks like a lovely place go go walking… but if you don’t dawdle, how can you appreciate it’s beauty and soak it all in? It’s just not possible to appreciate nature and fine views by rushing through it.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Autism Mom says:

    My son takes his Pooh traveling, as comfort and companion. I can’t think of a better reflection of the best of Englishness.

    And I must respectfully disagree with the fabulous Sacha – having worked at Disneyland for a couple of years and seeing all kinds of variations of “lining up,” queueing was very efficient – for me as the worker. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  17. julitownsend says:

    And Pooh is a very lovable Englishman – excellent choice.
    Love your photos, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. If you were looking for something really English then what about Sherry Trifle? And why did I think all the way though this post you were going to say Sooty and Sweep? Probably because I heard them singing on the radio this morning.

    I’m more of a Tigger than a Pooh. Why? I don’t like honey.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Charli Mills says:

    Interesting thoughts. My family that came out of North Carolina — the Appalachians — identified with the English in the same traditional ways as with Scots, Irish, Welsh or Cornish. Music and dialect, food and culture. It’s all intertwined yet made into something else among the Appalachian folk. So, thank you for my roots!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Pingback: Jo’s Monday walk : Clifton Suspension Bridge and Observatory | restlessjo

  21. I don t drink, he replied, going against the prevailing grain of BottleRock. In fact, on my half-mile walk back to the $40 parking lot, I saw a guy stumble down Soscol Ave.

    Liked by 1 person

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