As the English commentariat see us…

Last week we had a number of slightly off-true if well meaning comments ( in my opinion) on our native land from the slightly embarrassed and mildly indifferent English commentariat, on its regrettable and hopefully brief return to the news agenda. Charles Moore, a rare example of a commentator who feels passionately about us, albeit on the right wing Tory side, repeated his views on David Dimbleby’s Question Time on BBC1, though Any Questions on Radio 4 passed off in much agreement, even between Eamon McCann and the Editor of the Economist, John Micklethwait. I was proud of the Londonderry audience, although Jonathan Dimbleby felt he had to cringe dreadfully to everybody over the name, poor chap. Now from Simon Jenkins, the new chairman of the National Trust, mindful of the fact that the NT flourishes in NI. An appreciative outsider, if not always politically correct in an Irish sense. But we don’t mind; his heart’s in the right place, isn’t it?

Britain’s beauties are on their mettle this year as never before. There will be queues on Wainwright’s Coast to Coast walk and on the Dorset Coast Path. From Giant’s Causeway to the White Cliffs of Dover, Britons will be seeking pleasure as far as a tank of petrol can take them. Those who claim intimacy with Paris or Rome will seek instead, perhaps for the first time, the soberer delights of Edinburgh, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Bristol. Many will say, if the weather holds: “I never knew Britain was so beautiful.”

For me the charm of travelling in Britain lies not in the familiar but in the unfamiliar. It lies in the Antrim coast rather than the Cornish one, the Peak District rather than the Pen-nines. It lies in the tiny folds of Wilt-shire rather than the better-known ones of Dorset, in the heaving uplands of mid-Wales rather than the Cotswolds escarpment.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London