There’s an extract from The Times columnist AA Gill’s new book The Angry Island that’s worth a read. Entitled ‘I hate England’, it’s rather more nuanced and knowing than the title would suggest. “The English aren’t people who strive for greatness, they’re driven to it by a flaming irritation. It was anger that built the Industrial Age, which forged expeditions of discovery. It was the need for self-control that found an outlet in cataloguing, litigating and ordering the natural world”. Still, it’s not exactly all fond remembrance either:
Football stadiums are the places where you really see the shitty end of the English laugh. I sat in the terraces at Chelsea and heard the crowd make a hissing noise as the two teams ran onto the pitch. They were playing Spurs. “Yid,” my neighbour said helpfully. Yes? “Well, they’re north London, Jewish and, well, it’s the noise of the gas going into the ovens, isn’t it.”
It was so shocking, so astonishingly surreally nothing to do with football that I laughed and my neighbour smirked. And wagged a finger, “Got you.” And that’s what the English like about a well-aimed joke; they like to make you laugh despite yourself; to make you complicit in something disgraceful. That’s the joy, to have your laughter make some toff pillock, some liberal shirtlifter, a hypocrite.
Thanks to Mick for the heads up!