- Rudyard Kipling The who was the inspiration behind The Witangemot Club left this quote as the comment on a post of mine partially about said club. Since I returned briefly to England to attend a wedding last weekend - Ok strictly speaking the wedding took place in Monmouth which is legally in Wales but it's a border town and so far as I can tell has been effectively English for most of the last millenium despite the claims of the sheepshaggers - I thought I might write a bit about this.
The wedding I went to was, I would say, in the best traditions of England; an event where the gentlemen mostly wore morning coats and the ladies sported large hats. The accents were terribly refined and the guest list included bright young things from London, aged country relatives and all combinations in between. The service was held in a church that dates back to 1101, but, as with England itself, all the last 900 years of history mean that it has changed completely since then and the reception was in a marquee in a field where we could admire the very best of British farmland and countryside. It occured to me that it would, all in all, have made an excellent backdrop for "Four Weddings and a Funeral - Part 2", and thus to appear to be a characature of England, but it wasn't.
To the foreigners the sort of upper middle class behaviour on display at this wedding is the sort of thing most of them admire most about England. All those people from Japan, America and Europe who dress up in Barbour jackets and the like are doing so because they think that being an English gentleman (or lady) is a rather attractive thing. Of course they frequently miss the point - in the case of Japan the result is often hilarious - but so what? it is the thought that counts. Despite all the depressing BS emanating from ZaNUlabour about "Cool Britannia" and the like and how Britian is "really hip and trendy honest guv" the great export success is the old fogey. Colonel Blimp, Lord Wotwotleigh, Lady Bracknell and all those jolly good chaps and chapesses from public schools present a lifestyle to which millions around the world aspire.
England presents a contrast to the foreigner - on the one hand there are the gentry and on the other hand there are the football hooligans. It never seems to occur to them that England has always had both sorts and indeed Englishmen frequently start off as hooligans and end up as gentry. But if you never leave England you have no idea how the world sees your country and therefore no idea how envious people are - even if they do persist in joking about the food.
[The insatiably curious may see my photos of the wedding at the flickr page I especially created]