The Loose Bloggers Consortium said: Write about culture. The Fountains Abbey pub opposite St Mary’s Hospital immediately came to mind. A plaque on the wall claims that the bacterium that led to Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin could have wafted out the pub window along with beer fumes, across the road and into the window of his office – leading to the contamination of the culture in his petri dish. The rest is medical history. (And good news for some of my World War Two relatives.)

But I saw a different memorial more recently. While I was joining the great and arty to commemorate Ted Hughes the other day, a stone in memory of people who served in Malaya caught my eye.

The inscription read:

To commemorate the work of all those men and women of the British race who served Malaya 1786-1968

They shall come from the east and from the west and shall sit down in the kingdom of God

The pic I took was too rubbish to show you. There are better ones here, along with one of the Queen Mother unveiling it.

But the inscription raised questions for me. The British race? What is it? Is there a British race any more? Was there ever? Or do you have to delve back as far as the British being driven into what is now Wales by Roman? Saxon? Angle? invaders – leaving a more varied bunch of immigrants to eventually take the name British. These days – do the people most likely to declare themselves as British fall into these groups – Black, Asian (though not Scottish Asians) and Northern Ireland Protestant – the rest tending to opt for English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish? Some questions – what do you think?

Meanwhile back to culture – Smiley Culture – so-called because at school he chatted up girls by asking for a smile. He had two hits – there’s one below. He sadly and controversially came to a violent end during a police raid – blogger Dàithaì C‘s take here – but he left his mark on British culture along the way.

In case you’re wondering – the song, Police Officer, is apparently about an episode when he was caught in possession of ­cannabis, but let off because the police officer recognised him as a reggae artist.

You can saunter on over to read what the other members of the Loose (morals? bowels? knicker elastic?) Bloggers Consortium have to say about culture at their sites listed on the right hand side of the page – just scroll down a little to find them.


Filed under D - Loose Bloggers Consortium

22 responses to “Culture

  1. Ahem! Decorum young man. There is nuttin rong with my knickers, they were bought in a shop and well paid for. Mind you now you mention it…. me elastic is not as good as it used to be! 😥

    Over recent years, I was inclined to call myself European. As Fagin sings “I think I’ll have to think it out again”!

  2. Grannymar’s response made me laugh into my tea this morning — I love it!

  3. Don’t worry, I won’t be wearing them round my knees…. I have a safety pin at the ready! 😉

  4. I’ve no idea what British means apart from all the usual stereotypes about beer, cricket, football, sexual prudishness etc. I don’t feel at all British. European perhaps, a mixture of different traits from different countries. Most supposed national characteristics are just racist claptrap.

    • blackwatertown

      Which makes me a quarter British (if you discount the etc).
      You can probably guess which part.

    • Ok, Nick. Put it to the test: What’s the first thing that springs to your mind when someone mentions “French”, “Italian”, “Spanish”, “German”, “Greek”, “Swiss”, “Swedish”?

      And, how sweet that you, the European, possess “a mixture of different traits from different countries” yet, in the next sentence, denounce “most supposed national characteristics” as “just racist claptrap”..


      • Ha, floored by Ursula’s razor-sharp mind again. Well, when I say “different traits”, I don’t really mean anything specific, just that I can feel a strong connection with a lot of countries rather than just one. And of course the first thing that comes to mind at the mention of a country is the prevailing stereotypes. Don’t Germans eat frankfurters? Don’t the French eat frog’s legs? The stereotypes are absurd but they’re embedded in our minds nonetheless.

  5. According to the disgruntled friend who’s rant I was listening to for a good half hour without said friend coming up for air…being British means violent thugs who behaves in atrocious and unforgivable ways that no-one else in the whole wide world would ever dream of behaving like. Needless to say said friend is not of British origins.

  6. The Fountains Abbey Pub’s take makes eminent sense to me. I am a strong believer in the pub culture, alas in the decline in the UK I am told. Imagine what other possibilities may be lurking around if some formula could be found to revive it. May be Fleming could be resurrected to remind him of pay back time.

    • blackwatertown

      It is in decline – not, however, in my own village. That’s partly thanks to my own political activism. It’s a bit like Occupy Wall Street – except it happens in the pub, and we don’t usually stay overnight.
      La luta continua!

  7. Forget about British race; I’m still stuck on…

    could have wafted out the pub window along with beer fumes, across the road and into the window of his office…

  8. Helen

    Being a Mary’s graduate I can confirm the proximity of The Fountains Abbey pub and the old St.Mary’s buildings. However, more of us drank in The Flem as The Alexander Fleming pub was known for short (or should that be ‘the phlegm’) which was just round the corner. Certainly not much culture to be found amongst a group of medics escaping the long hours in the pub in those days.

  9. I love your posts, so much food for thought, they keep me busy all week. My daughter once said that she wished she was Italian or Spanish or hailed from some other ethnic background because English people didn’t have a culture. It took me some time to explain that we were probably one of the most invaded countries in history with a wealth of imported and indigenous culture. I mean, we gave he world Morris Dancing!

    • blackwatertown

      And toilets and concentration camps and the train and penicillin and sewing machines and stamps (penny post) – and at least partly – the late great Jackie Leven, Billy Bragg, Ray Davies – and not forgetting bakewells (though not the bloaty eggy tarts from Bakewell, the wee buns in packets). Oh and apparently the pencil.

  10. P W

    Just a little confused by Helen’s posting. Where did she escape to from the “long hours in the pub”? Perhaps there was a form of licenced trade oscillation going on.

  11. 29

    Not a culture comment, just one on Malaya. Last month I met an old school friend not seen for more than half a century; his elder brother was one of those who had gone to Malaya from the west, as a marine. He was wounded in the jungle and lifted out strapped to the outside of a helicopter.
    We, of the Hotspur/Rover generation were mightly impressed. He was Irish, one of those jigsaw pieces going to make up the melange that could be described as British.

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