The English aren’t perfect. Heck, I could list ten or more character flaws which give me chronic acid-reflux regarding the Anglo-Saxons.
ut racism isn’t one of them. I’ll come back to prejudice presently. Recently, I was in town when the canticle of the Celtic collective-consciousness, the bagpipes and drum, drifted by on the wintry breeze. It was the Glenmoriston Pipe Band whom I’d come across a time or two before.
As always, they were beguiling Bury St Edmunds shoppers like a troop of plaid pied-pipers. A rubber neck by trade and an incorrigible people-watcher from my youth, I quickly joined the jamboree, shuffling along, coming face to face with the musicians, one lady and six men puffing and thumping jubilantly. The players wore the belts, sporrans, tartan socks, garters, kilts and clan badges of the proud sons and daughters of Scotland the brave.
A woman next to me held two heavy shopping-bags while nodding her head to the tunes. Marie is English, and I asked why she was tarrying there on a cold day to hear foreign music. “Oh, I just love it,” she enthused, doubtlessly wondering why I’d asked her such a pointless question.
Judging by the way the shoppers gratefully reached into their pockets and handbags, fishing out coins to drop into the collection tin proffered by Glaswegian, Clive, who was kitted out in traditional highland dress making the rounds, I suspected Marie spoke for every Englishman in that crowd. I asked Clive how he came to Sassenach land. He replied in his broad lowland burr, “Och, I flew down.”
Ree, ree, thump, thump, reeeee! Spontaneously, two lady bystanders begin an impromptu highland fling, as more than one man taps a toe, some two toes, keeping time with the sounds of Scotland. Children to the left and right automatically march and skip, and when the energetic number ends, the street, wreathed with smiles, rings with whole-hearted handclapping. And that brings me to my point about racism.
A recent media buzz word is Haters. Believe the media, and you’d think the English are the most bigoted group of haters since the Nazis. According to social networking, the thing the English hate most is, well, anything not English. But in real time, nothing could be further from the truth. The English always invite strangers to come into their gates.
Don’t take my word for it. Open yer bloomin’ eyes. You’ll see it at English market days, every country fair north, east or west, and even at neighbourhood street parties, there’s invariably a Jamaican food vendor, a Thai or Mexican pop-up restaurant, and in the busy highstreets, a Polish grocery, an Italian pizza place, or an Indian take-away permanently packed out with – wait for it – English punters of all ages who can’t get enough foreign cuisine and culture.
What? Still not convinced? Take the Glenmoriston Pipe Band. The band’s continually booked to perform at sundry local functions, from weddings to memorials and all sorts of events in between. The ensemble, consisting of a core of native Scots, some Englishmen and women, and even an American or two, is much loved according to Clive-the-money-collector. How does he know? Their popularity speaks for itself.
So. The English are the undisputed chauvinists of the UK, eh? Hmm. I’m not criticising the other nationals in these British Isles, but having taken my PhD in Wales, worked in Ireland and travelled extensively in Scotland, I’m not so sure a jingling team of hanky-waving, stick-banging Morris dancers would be as popular in their high streets. But then again, I could be wrong. I hope I am.
-- Michael Apichella is a writer living in Bury. Visit his website at www.michaelapichella.com or follow him on Twitter: @MApichellaPhD.