Wednesday, September 26, 2007


England has a special place in a lot of people’s hearts including mine. As soon as you hear Big Ben’s chimes and see the red buses and black cabs, you know you’re in England! Singer Tom Jones missed the “green green grass of home” so much that he had a red telephone box shipped over to his American home which now takes pride of place in his back garden, a nostalgic reminder of his English roots. Sadly the famous red telephone boxes have now been replaced by newer more modern looking boxes. With the invention of mobiles, phone boxes are now a rare site in England. Thankfully some red postboxes still remain. For most Brits there's no place like home or Blighty as it’s affectionately known!

There’s definitely something special about sitting back with a cup of English tea. It never tastes the same when you go abroad. Also favourite things like HP sauce, Bisto gravy granules, Marmite and Cadburys chocolate are virtually unheard of in some parts of the world. One of the things I particularly like about England is the fact we have a Royal family and a Monarch to rule over us. Despite having just celebrated her 80th birthday, the Queen shows no signs of slowing down and is still one of the hardest working members of the Royal family.

England is also the land that gave us Shakespeare and many other famous writers including Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Barbara Taylor Bradford and Harry Potter’s creator J K Rowling. Screen icons Elizabeth Taylor and Bob Hope were both born here. Lots of great bands have also originated here including The Beatles, The Rowling Stones, Queen and Oasis

People often ask me, when you think of Britain, what images and symbols come to mind. I’d like to share the following with you, all things which I believe symbolise the heart of Britishness.

One of the most famous is the bowler hat. It’s one of those epitomes of being British. Traditionally in the old movies, British men were always seen wearing bowler hats. They gained their name because of their shape (like a bowl) and also because they were made by a hatmaker called William Bowler. Not a lot of people know that. Many famous Britons wore them, including Patrick McNee (better known as the archetypical English spy John Steed from the New Avengers), Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel (the Brit born half of the Laurel and Hardy comedy duo). Even today bowler hats are frequently seen being worn on the streets of London, part of the city gent’s unofficial uniform, often teamed with a black rolled umbrella.

The British Bulldog is another great symbol of the British Empire. It symbolises the very essence of Britishness Bearing a striking resemblance to Winston Churchill, one of the greatest leaders of our time and still held in high esteem by many Brits, the British Bulldog symbolises the very essence of Britishness. He stands firm, is unshakeable in the face of adversity, loyal and reliable. He’s also individual and very nice when you get to know him, like myself and most Brits. Not at all like the “stiff upper lip” image that a lot of people have of the Brits. We Brits have a sense of humour and are approachable, despite what a lot of people think.

Whilst the Americans have Uncle Sam, we have John Bull. John Bull is a fictional character created by John Arbuthnot, a Scottish author who wrote satirical political pamphlets featuring him as a traditional Englishman. The character struck a chord with readers and has been popular ever since, even featuring in a 1916 British Army recruitment poster. John Bull is used to personify the British nation and is always depicted as a portly, elderly gentleman dressed in breeches, boots and full riding kit, complete with Union Jack waistcoat.

“Rule Britannia, Britannia Rules the Waves” – this song is still sung every year on the BBC’s “Last Night of the Proms”. The image of Britannia, a young woman in a neo-classical gown, wearing a helmet, with a trident in one hand and Union Jack shield in the other is the symbol of British nationalism. The image originates from Roman times, when the Romans named their newly conquered land, just across the sea from Gaul, Britannia. The image of Britannia was actually featured on coins at that time and has continued to feature on some British coins to this day. Britannia became a popular figure in the early 1700’s when England, Scotland and Wales were united to form Great Britain. Britannia was immortalised in the famous words of the song, “Rule Britannia” in 1740. James Thompson wrote the song and set it to music by Thomas Arne.


Granimore said...

I know you can't list all of the British bands, but I would like to add The Moody Blues to the list.

Janey Loree said...

Naomi this is an awesome post! Very informative and interesting to boot!!

Janey Loree said...

Hi Naomi I am back via your England Goes GONZO! carnival!! You out did yourself on putting the carnival post together, too!!!

Marsha said...

Thank you for sharing all of this, I learned a lot.

Dirty Butter said...

I'm here to enjoy reading all the great posts on your England Goes GONZO Carnival, and you've gotten it off to a great start.

John C said...

Pulling Steed, Bull, and Britania into the same post was a very good read...I've been a fan of all of the 'Avengers' series, especially 'Police Surgeon'.

Naomi said...

Glad you enjoyed it John. I'm a big fan of The Avengers series too. I always thought John Steed was the archetypical English gentleman with his bowler hat.