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Karen Kay: What is the best of British?

PUBLISHED: 10:33 26 April 2016 | UPDATED: 10:33 26 April 2016

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Our Home Counties girl celebrates treasures and blessings such as the beautiful countryside and Sunday lunches

What is the best of British? I’m not too sure right now. I suppose we must first establish what British is before we can begin to sort the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.

Patriotism can bring with it all sorts of ugly connotations in our 21st century world. Watching the US presidential campaigns, with their fervent flagwaving, and often belligerent jingoism, I’m aware of dramatic differences between our two countries. We are not so immersed in our own island nation that we can’t see beyond its shores to the bigger world beyond.

Yet I also rather like the idea of being proud of our heritage, and feeling free to express some sense of identity, based on where we come from. And that somehow has been loaded with negative connotations in a politically correct landscape, where extremists have hijacked the George Cross and created an atmosphere of hatred.

I am the sum of my parts: someone shaped by her roots. I am frequently charged with being ‘so English’ by friends from other parts of Britain who tease me for my obsession with manners and ludicrous inability to ‘let go’ at the karaoke microphone. It doesn’t cause me undue concern, but does seem to indicate to others that I hail from a certain part of the world.

On a regional level, English colleagues make jibes about me being a Home Counties girl, sometimes in a slightly pejorative tone. I think this means they believe I am, essentially, middle class, and blessed with the good fortune to have been raised in comfort, with a decent education under my belt. I don’t imagine for one minute these remarks are made in a spiteful way, but fundamentally, we are all made up of a jigsaw of traits that create our personality, and so much of that comes from our genealogy and the environment we’ve grown up in. On a local level, I take great delight in my immediate surroundings, and consider our counties offer many things that could comfortably be described as the best of British. By that, I don’t mean better than anywhere else, but that we have many wonderful assets that are on a par with the best of the rest.

We enjoy wonderful countryside, including Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and more that is, well, naturally beautiful. Where I am, The Chilterns are a unique landscape, and share their undulating hills, patchwork of farmland and ancient woodlands with residents and visitors alike.

We are fortunate to be immersed in a place with a rich heritage: consider the beech woods and bodgers that made High Wycombe the heart of the British furniture making industry, and the incredible historical events – kept secret for many years – that took place at Bletchley Park, helping to end the Second World War. From grand country estates to pubs offering superb Sunday lunches, we have a lot to celebrate.

On a cultural level, Pinewood studios is home to some of the world’s best filmmaking and Roald Dahl, one of the world’s finest story tellers, counts as ‘one of ours’. Stanley Spencer is celebrated in Cookham and author Terry Pratchett hailed from Beaconsfield.

Many others have chosen to settle here in recent years, we have claimed the likes of Terry Wogan as our own, because they proudly elected to make this their home.

We are not parochial about our love of the place we live, but proudly share it with others as the Best of Berks and Bucks, and Best of British. And, alongside that, we embrace the best of everywhere else too.


READ ON

Heston Blumenthal on how British produce and recipes give us cause to celebrate - Looking back on it now, when I opened The Fat Duck in 1995, the UK was on the cusp of what has become a modern, culinary revolution.

John Bercow reflects on the British spirit - Speaker of the House of Commons and Buckingham MP John Bercow reflects on the British spirit and sense of continuity that shape our lives

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