Why do we travel? Do we travel so we can accrue experiences to take back to our homeland, or maybe we prefer to see if foreign folk find us as funny and charming as our compatriots? Perhaps it’s both, however one thing is true of my own travel experiences; you can take the boy out of England, but you can never take the England out of the boy.
I ♥ England
Perhaps I’m looking at it through rose-tinted glasses. Perhaps absence really does make the heart grow fonder. But two years since I scarpered from the land of high tea and mushy peas, I’m looking back with fondness.
I was recently baited by the Guardian newspaper to consider my homeland, and suggest three things I do to enjoy England, which ties in neatly with their patriotic feature entitled, well, what else; ‘Enjoy England’.
If you’re not from England, the forthcoming trio can be construed as useful markers on the land I call home. Furthermore, the ‘Enjoy England’ feature as a whole is guaranteed to combine some of the very best of our bold little island.
Three Cheers For England
Ye Olde English Pub
You can’t have failed to hear about the demise of this revered institution. The English pub — not to be confused with its British brothers — is unrivalled throughout the world.
They’re a simple gathering place, encircled by moss-smeared picnic tables, and crumbling car parks. Upon entering, you’ll need to make eye contact with at least four strangers (preferably old and fearsome) and perform a bold strut to the bar. Once there, lay your forearms squarely in a pool of stale beer, and ask some bosoms to fetch you a pint (never, ever, ever order a half pint) of anything that ends in ale.
If you’re new to the pub, don’t hang around at the bar. You haven’t earned your stripes yet. Retreat to a safe haven and sup quietly until instructed otherwise. Undoubtedly the best time to be in any English pub is during a sports event. Emotions are loose, and everyone is so bladdered they’ll barely notice you’re not from the village.
Fifteen years ago my under-thirteen manager flapped his arms on the sidelines. He looked like a semaphore that had been hit by a tornado. Misinterpreting the signal to push wide, I ran the width of the pitch to politely ask what he wanted. I never played again.
Eleven years later I met football legend Ron Atkinson at a gala dinner. “F**king hell” he bellowed in familiar tones, “who let Ole Gunnar Solskjær in?” For the uneducated, Solskjær played for Man United and earned the nickname ‘Baby-faced Assassin’ on account of his boyish looks. The whole room erupted in laughter. Six months later I left the country.
Although you can occasionally secure tickets for the classic Premiership games, there’s little need to jump the gun. Not only will you find more passionate fans in the lower leagues, but the atmosphere will be much more electric. The silent plagues of corporate spongers will be absent and you’ll be giving more support to the game, which is much more commendable.
It’s a mystery to me why English beaches aren’t more applauded outside of our small isle. While we don’t always have the weather to laze around and pick bikinis out of our polite little buttocks, we do cherish a good beach.
My favourite beach in all the land is Old Hunstanton beach. Many a time I’ve camped under beach huts with a crate of lager, a camp–fire and a bunch of sozzled friends. It was also the stage for my power–kiting phase, which saw me hoisted through the air on the end of an oversized kite before being dragged face–down across wet — and surprisingly solid — sand. It was also here that I watched my friend, Nathan snap his leg in two before being airlifted away (see photo).
The access road to Old Hunstanton beach also homes another fine English institution; the English café, where you can grab a real English breakfast, and drink proper English tea from mugs made in China.
Should you find yourself in England this year, be sure to mop it up. Sit in a bus stop and bemoan the weather; pick up a pie and huddle up in a bandstand; or flick off your flip-flops and enjoy the fun of the fête. Or if you’re lucky enough to call England home — what would your ‘three cheers’ be?